Open Access
Chan, Hsing-I Michelle
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
March 19, 2008
Committee Members:
  • Miryam Espinosa Dulanto, Committee Chair
  • Carolyn Elizabeth Sachs, Committee Member
  • Susan G Strauss, Committee Member
  • Dana Lynn Stuchul, Committee Member
  • poststructuralism
  • feminism
  • identity
  • women
  • Taiwanese immigrant
  • ESL
  • Narrative
  • English learning and teaching
This thesis presents the stories of five Taiwanese, immigrant, middle-class women and their border crossing, resistance, and ambivalence which evolved as they acquired English as a second language in the context of the United States. Rapeseeds were carried by the wind to many places and I adopt that image as a metaphor to symbolize how these women came to be in the U.S. either by their choice or following their husbands. During this one-year qualitative research, I conducted ethnographic interviews to analyze individuals’ histories and their personal stories. I used narrative methodology to gain insight into the meanings of their life experiences, especially to understand the impact of the particular experience of uprootedness on their concepts of “home” and identity development as they transitioned from being dependent to independent while learning English in the U.S. These personal narratives illustrate the significance of sociohistoric circumstances influencing people. This study also reveals how social empowerment and acquisition of the English language reshaped these women’s relationships with their husbands, children and mothers. All of these women transformed from primarily dependent beings into not only independent but empowered women due to English language learning. This research analyzes how power, both gained and lost in the process of learning English as well as maintaining Mandarin, becomes a central feature of these women as they encounter challenges and gain independence and confidence. Acknowledging Chinese cultural heritage, I reveal the importance of Taiwan’s modern history beginning in 1895, and in particular how the Chinese civil war affected language practices, created identity crises, and led to the final home choices of Taiwan and the U.S. Furthermore, rather than “reporting” women’s perspectives and life experiences, this research goes beyond the superficial to identify any contradictions in the conversations. I adopt the Chinese fable of the Shield and the Spear as a metaphor to describe the inconsistencies in the narratives which indicate multi-layered negotiations of their identities. Finally, this study reflects on the insider/outsider status between myself as the researcher and the researched participants. I employ the methodology of reflexivity as I examine the shift in power relations during the long interview process and the interactions which empowered both myself and the participants, allowing us to discover and reshape our multiple identities in meaningful ways.