Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Foreigners’ Archive – Contemporary China in the Blogs of American Expatriates

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Donna Nelson-Beene (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Bettina Heinz (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Canchu Lin (Committee Member)


In this study I scrutinize blogs written by American expatriates in China of the 21st century. Two primary objectives are involved. One is to explore how China is represented in such blogs. The other is to understand the discursive processes through which the American bloggers utilize the blogging technology to narrate their (mis)conceptions of the Chinese realities. Equally important to these two focuses is an emphasis on revealing a delicate interplay between the production of the digital discourses about contemporary China in blog sphere, the bloggers’ assumptions of the Chinese government’s encompassing control of the Internet, and the surging nationalism exhibited by the Chinese readers of the blogs.

Drawing from the postcolonial and discursive perspectives of Edward Said, Mary Louise Pratt, David Spurr, and Nicolas Clifford, I see those blogs not merely as a platform for self expression, an open field of identity experiment, or a grassroots journalistic outlet. Rather, I argue that the blogs examined here consist of a distinct discursive space of cultural representation and contestation. They are also interpreted as a digital extension of conventional Euro-American travel writing as they share with the genre a set of rhetorical conventions and face the same set of problems of representing the cultural Other. These assumptions guided the multimodal discourse analyses of the blogs by three American individuals. The study revealed that the bloggers used three prominent metaphors to convey their perceptions of contemporary China, which echo the conventional Western knowledge of the county. During the process, the bloggers are concerned with the Chinese censorship of the Internet and give little attention to the challenge voiced by nationalistic Chinese readers.