Interpreting another culture : an ethnographic study of how Western-educated women make sense of Chinese culture in Shanghai

Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2007
Thesis identifier
  • T11831
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • This thesis is concerned with ways of making sense of another culture and is based on ethnographic fieldwork with a small group of elite Western-educated women, mostly Westerners, in Shanghai in 2005. The post-colonial theory of Edward Said and others formed the theoretical foundation and the research had two aims: 1) to discover whether Said's theory might usefully inform an ethnographic study 2) to draw an ethnographic picture of the group of women in collaboration with them. Data was collected through interviews and photographs provided by the participants with written comments and it was found that the women did use some of the linguistic strategies employed by the Orientalist scholars criticised by Said but that they also used many others as well. Their ethnocentric attitudes were on the whole quite different from those of the Orientalists. Whereas, according to Said, the Orientalists misrepresented and denied the reality of the Orient, the participants, especially as they used narratives, examples and comparisons, provided many details of their life in Shanghai and of their attempts to interpret Chinese culture as they searched for the 'real' China. My argument is that the process of making sense of another culture is long and difficult but that most important of all is one's intention and attitude. An awareness of the power of the West is necessary, especially on the part of Westerners who are in contact with the East. The whole thesis is written from the point of view of a Westerner who has lived in Shanghai for more than forty-two years, including semi-colonial times in the 1930s and 1940s and from 1984 up to the present.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2007
Former identifier
  • 759089