Not Understanding Everyday Life: Remaining an Outsider in Enigmatic Modern China

By Lili Hernandez Romero.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

No other country in the world is going through so much change so as fast as China. At this juncture being a foreigner in this country implies living in the midst of novelty, whilst being a novelty in the eyes of the locals too. In this paper I explore ways by which foreigners are condemned to remain outsiders in urban China as the transparency of everyday life is highly disrupted by ‘incongruous’ things coming together on a day-to-day basis. Undoubtedly, one of the most fundamental obstacles in the understanding of China’s everyday life is the language. Nevertheless, a strong Chinese culture, enigmatic and firmly rooted in tradition and repetition interferes in a unique manner rendering, to a great extent, all language abilities irrelevant for an understanding of the everyday. This paper draws on theories of Otherness and on aspects of the field of everyday life to analyse the condition of living an everyday life in which ordinary occurrences have the power to become the most extraordinary events, confirming the foreigner’s position as the Other. To conduct this analysis first I discuss the idea of ‘the outsider’, connecting it with the notion of Otherness. Second, I contextualise various ways in which the notion of the foreigner has been constructed in China. In order to outline the idea of ‘not-understanding the everyday’ I thirdly refer to ‘the ordinary’ and ‘the extraordinary’ in everyday life. Finally, I discuss some outsiders’ responses to the strangeness of everyday life in China, providing empirical evidence as to how this renders them as outsiders.

Keywords: China, Outsider, Otherness, Bundaries, Everyday Life, The Ordinary, The Extraordinary

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 11, pp.119-132. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.708MB).

Dr. Lili Hernandez Romero

Lecturer, Division of International Communications, The University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China

Dr. Lili Hernández is lecturer in International Communications at the University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China. She teaches modules such as Communications Technologies, The Psychology of Communications and Approaches to Globalisation and Contemporary Communications. Two main areas of her research are Everyday Life and New Communication Technologies. She is particularly interested in comparative studies involving these two fields. Her research on the everyday has led to a growing interest in the exploration of such notions as Otherness, Cosmopolitanism and Self-realisation. Other areas of research include globalisation and, patterns of affluence and poverty in contemporary societies.

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