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Imagined Communities: Patriotic Sentiment Among Chinese Students Abroad in the Era of Xi Jinping


Using a combination of participant-observation and semi-structured, person-centered

interview techniques, this thesis examines nationalist subjectivities and patriotic sentiment

among Chinese university students abroad during the late Xi Jinping era. By approaching this

phenomenon from an anthropological, bottom-up approach, this paper concludes that rather than

tempering their nationalist sentiment through exposure to other cultures and political systems,

time spent abroad actually increases the magnitude and salience of patriotic sentiments, as well

as reshapes Chinese nationalist subjectivities in ways that are unique, but whose roots can be

found in the social facts and narrative lens imparted during Patriotic Education Campaign

initiated by the Chinese Communist Party following the political turmoil of the 1980s, as well as

in the lived experiences of Chinese students abroad today. Tracing back to its incipient roots

during pre-Dynastic China, this paper contributes to anthropological studies of nationalism by

arguing that nationalism, rather than being understood as a broad phenomenon that arises only

when certain universal conditions are met, must be understood in a situated, localized context

and centered in the lived experiences of everyday people who at once shape, and are shaped by

nationalistic narratives and sentiments.

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