Yingyi Ma article on Chinese students in America coping with stigma published in CSR
Aug 4, 2021
To mask or not to mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic: how Chinese students in America experience and cope with stigma
Yingyi Ma & Ning Zhan
Chinese Sociological Review, October 2020
Chinese students in the U.S. are confronted with the double jeopardy of virus and stigma amid COVID-19. This study focuses on their choice and impact of mask wearing during this pandemic. How do they navigate and negotiate the troubling and contradictory directives about masks coming from their home and host countries during this pandemic? What are the impacts of their experiences on their attitudes towards the American society?
Drawing from stigma theory, the authors argue that what Chinese students experience when it comes to mask wearing is an exemplar of how stigma is socially constructed by power. Through 30 semi-structured and in-depth phone interviews with Chinese students, the authors find that Chinese students cope with such stigma through various mechanisms, and most notably, through the counter-narrative of discrediting the American mainstream belief in the usage of masks. However, they harbored these thoughts privately.
In addition, the authors conclude that escalating geo-political tensions between the U.S. and China, coupled with the lack of social integration of Chinese students in America, will continue to alienate them, despite the subsequent destigmatization of mask-wearing in America.