Student: Cecelia Xu (Honors Thesis Student, Specialization in Consumer Behavior)
Supervisor: Dr. Mark Cleveland, Dancap Private Equity Professor in Consumer Behavior
Thesis Title: Multidimensional Patterns of Acculturation in Multiethnic Settings
Thesis defense: May 2014.
Thesis abstract: Immigration continues to profoundly change the face of many Western societies, including Canada where upwards of 21% of the population is foreign-born. Although the topic has attracted considerable research attention, studies have hitherto failed to take into consideration the nature of and forms of acculturation occurring beyond the majority-minority dichotomy; that is, experienced by the minority group vis-à-vis the host mainstream/predominant group. Acculturation patterns of immigrants when immersed in a non-homogenous host cultures are unclear. Minorities acculturate not only to the predominant group, but also to the global consumer culture, as well as to other (ethnic) minority (non-dominant) populations coexisting in society. The core objective of my thesis was to shed light on the ways in which immigrants adapt culturally to a host society that is diverse and pluralistic. In particular, the research looks at how Chinese-Canadians acculturate themselves to Canadian culture, and to South Asian culture, from the perspective of mainstream/ethnic food consumption. Food has been shown to be strongly tied to culture and thus, food habits are presumably resistant to change. Chinese-Canadian consumers were surveyed, employing measures for Chinese ethnic identity (for Chinese pride, desire to maintain Chinese culture, interpersonal interactions with other Chinese, and Chinese-language media consumption), cosmopolitism, self-identification with global consumer culture, Canadian pride and desire to acculturate to Canadian society, acculturation to South Asian culture (incorporating media and interpersonal dimensions), the consumption frequency of 26 foods associated with global/Canadian, Chinese, and South Asian cultures, as well as relevant demographic measures, including period of time spent in the host society, birthplace, and so forth. The study reveals that the acculturation by a minority group occurs only to the dominant host culture, but also to other minority cultures, as a function of the interaction between Chinese ethnic identity, cosmopolitanism, self-identification with global consumer culture, and third-culture (e.g., South-Asian) exposure. These sociocultural constructs in turn differentially drive consumption of foodstuffs emanating from mainstream, Chinese, and South Asian cultures.
On the thesis experience: “My thesis was a year-long course that began in the summer, when I worked with Prof. Cleveland to choose a research topic of my interest. After that, the process involved proposing a research method, conducting research, analyzing data and finally the thesis submission. Writing my thesis was a capstone experience for me, and I got to work closely with areas of interest that were not covered in the Consumer Behavior module. And, of course, it has definitely helped me feel prepared me for pursuing graduate school.” (Cecelia Xu)