Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Andrew Deener, Ruth Braunstein

Field of Study



Master of Arts

Open Access

Open Access


Transnational migration inevitably leads to destabilization of identity. Groups with different characteristics adopt varied strategies to restabilize a sense of selfhood. Elite global migrants, well-equipped with economic, cultural, and educational capital, tend to embrace a cosmopolitan lifestyle in the new location (Favell 2008). In contrast, migrant workers with limited human capital depend on their national peers for useful information and resources in order to make smooth transition across borders (Brown 2011). However, the case of the elite Chinese student migrants fits into neither of the trajectories. In regaining a sense of personhood, those global middle-class migrants end up in a marginal status that is commonly associated with underprivileged migrant groups. This article sets forth to address this puzzling disjuncture between class position and integration trajectory based on an 8-month, multi-sited ethnography at a New England public university with 11 Chinese graduate students. My findings suggest that three aspects of their identity--global middle class, independent young adults, and good students—are key to understand the self-segregation from the public space. This study complicates the literature on global middle class and symbolic boundaries and invites further research on marginal, middle positions to better understand migrant trajectory.

Major Advisor

Claudio Benzecry