From a Typological to Network Understanding of Acculturation – Ruobing Chi

Author: Ruobing Chi

It used full-network analysis to investigate three questions: (1) how did participants in this multicultural community acculturate?; (2) how well did they adapt?; and (3) what is the relationship between their ways of acculturation and their adaptation?
Given the salient cultural diversity in the community studied and its unique location on an island between the East and the West, it is believed that the combination of the dominant bi-dimensional theory and the social network analysis provided the best analytical framework. The study included a full-network online survey about two social relations among those within the community: who the participants socialized with and whom (up to six) they felt closest to within this community. 150 out of the 280 members of the community responded to the questionnaire. 27 follow-up interviews were conducted to elicit insiders’ views on the acculturation phenomenon.
The findings showed that this is a culturally diverse and cohesive community. Different patterns of social relations between individuals and cultural groups were observed in the network visualization, and structural clusters of various cultural compositions were also identified. In addition, unlike conventional wisdom, neither homophily nor proximity appeared to be the major mechanism for the formation of social ties in this community. Interviews suggested that the presence of cultural diversity, the institutionalized community events, and the student association’s leadership are the major drives of intercultural relations. Overall, the students adapted well socio-culturally, psychologically, and academically. The number of socializing partners and close friends of an individual explained over 50% variance of their acculturation outcomes.
This study illustrated how a network understanding of acculturation can advance the theory by going beyond type categorization to a relational view. Its implementation demonstrated the potential of using networks as measures of the process and outcome of acculturation in a multicultural setting and how that might benefit those in the studied community by making their networks visible. Limitations and future research directions were discussed to continue this effort of bringing culture and context back to acculturation research as called for.

Chairperson: Daniel Suthers

Committee: Dharm Bhawuk, Rich Gazan, Scott Robertson, Min-Sun Kim

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