Academic journal article Health Sociology Review

Reviewing Chinese Immigrant Women's Health Experiences in English-Speaking Western Countries: A Postcolonial Feminist Analysis

Academic journal article Health Sociology Review

Reviewing Chinese Immigrant Women's Health Experiences in English-Speaking Western Countries: A Postcolonial Feminist Analysis

Article excerpt

Introduction

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, along with the significant influx of the Chinese immigrant population in Western countries and the growing need of culturally sensitive care, Chinese immigrants' health and healthcare experiences have increasingly become a noteworthy focus of social and health research. Although most of this research recognizes the diversity of Chinese immigrant populations by identifying their places of birth, there is a dearth of healthcare research paying attention to socioeconomic and cultural heterogeneity within the Chinese immigrant population in relation to their experiences of healthcare services. For example, unlike their predecessors, who mainly came from Guangdong province of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Asian countries, Chinese newcomers mostly come from mainland China (Li & Li, 2011). Considering the growing size and diversity of Chinese immigrant populations in English-speaking countries, as well as the social and economic vulnerability of immigrant women (Neufeld, Harrison, Stewart, Hughes, & Spitzer, 2002), most empirical research on Chinese immigrant women's health experiences is focused on English-speaking countries such as Canada, the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The vast majority of this research focus on identifying and examining the factors associated with these Chinese immigrants' health behaviours and experiences, among which acculturation and cultural factors are the most discussed. Health beliefs, language ability, level of education, socioeconomic status, and social and family support are explored by some studies but not others. Rather than merely synthesizing the results from these empirical works, this integrative critical review adopts a post-colonial feminist theoretical lens to understand how these results are discussed and achieved, and to uncover the underlying assumptions and implications of these studies. A postcolonial feminist perspective has been employed in addressing health and structural inequities as well as cultural and racial stereotypes among non-Western immigrant populations (e.g. O'Mahony & Donnelly, 2010a; Racine, 2003) and Aboriginal populations (e.g. Browne & Smye, 2002; Tang & Browne, 2008), to uncover the intersectionality of class, race, and gender in creating marginalization among non-Western women in particular. Informed by this perspective, this review provides a synthesized and critical understanding of how Chinese immigrant women's health experiences can be constructed through diversified contextual situations and the intersectionality of race, gender and class, and how the interpretation of their experiences and practices can be influenced by imposed cultural stereotypes.

Background

After World War II, the population of ethnic Chinese residing in two immigrant receiving continents, North America (mainly the United States and Canada) and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), has increased steadily from 335,000 in 1955 to 8.025 million in 2007 (Li & Li, 2011). Europe has also received a growing number of Chinese immigrants, which has increased from 14,000 to 1.144 million during 1955-2007 (Li & Li, 2011). In addition to the tremendous growth of Chinese immigrant populations in western industrialized countries, the demographic characteristics of the Chinese population has also changed due to political and economic forces in the places of origin and country of destination. Firstly, the immigration policies in many receiving countries, such as Canada, the U.S., Australia, and the UK, shifted their target population from labor class to professional and skilled personnel (Li & Li, 2011), so the current wave of Chinese immigrants mainly consists of economic-class immigrants1 with human capital, which means they are mostly well-educated and middle class. Secondly, between the 1960s and the 1980s, Chinese immigrants were mostly from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other East Asian countries and regions, but since the late 1990s, these Western countries began to welcome increasing number of Chinese immigrants from mainland China (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012; Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2011; Huang & Spurgeon, 2006; Qian, Lichter, & Crowley, 2010). …

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