Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Debra Jacobs, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gary A. Olson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marilyn Myerson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Metzger, Ph.D.


Rhetoric, Pedagogy, Ideology, Masculinity, Femininity, Binary


The increasing presence of Chinese international graduate students in American higher education has mandated a closer examination of their multifaceted lives against stereotypes that hinder their efforts to find, transform, or assert their identities in the dominant discourses of American academia and culture.

Cross cultural studies of Chinese international students tend to reinforce stereotypes of their writer identities, learner identities, and teacher identities. Examining these various identities discloses dichotomies that read Chinese students’ traits and behaviors as handicaps and thus characterize them as “abnormal” in relation to the “normal” traits and behaviors of Chinese students’ Western counterparts. Whereas Western student writers are described as direct and logical, Chinese student writers are characterized as indirect and illogical. In comparison to the assertive and critical way of thinking that is regarded as the norm among American students, Chinese students are seen as submissive “rote learners.” Conversely, the liberatory, student-centered approach to teaching that is promoted in the American educational system is thought to be antithetical to what is considered to be an authoritarian, teacher-centered approach of Chinese education.

Underlying these binaries is an unchallenged gender binary. Deeply entrenched Western notions about masculinity and femininity ultimately lead to a feminization of Chinese identities. Despite the constant critique from various disciplines, dichotomous views of gender persist and consequently lead to misconceptions about Chinese subjectivity in U.S.

This project argues that these misconceptions have produced consistently devastating effects on Chinese students and further demobilize them from acculturating themselves into the dominant discourse in the United States. To deconstruct these socially, culturally, and ideologically constructed binaries, this work uses scholarship on subjectivity and identity by Michel Foucault and Homi Bhabha to examine critically how identity is formed and transformed; it also draws heavily on scholarship in rhetoric and composition and in feminist studies to delineate how Chinese students’ various identities are formed and transformed. The goal of this work is to advance a complementary thinking to advocate new conceptions about Chinese students’ various identities and ultimately to allow Chinese students to assume more active agency in their identity transformation process in the U.S.