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Remapping the Cultural and Linguistic Landscape of the Chinese in Britain

A conference examining the changing linguistic and cultural landscape of the Chinese in Britain, with keynote speakers Professor Caroline Knowles (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Professor Li Wei (University College London). The Chinese is a small but one of the fastest growing communities in Britain. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of Chinese in Britain has increased from 247,000 in 1991 to 400,000 in 2011, and it is estimated the total number reached 500,000 by 2015. Approximately two-thirds of Chinese in Britain were born outside UK, with the majority coming from Hong Kong, China and Southeast Asia. The past two decades have witnessed a steady rise in the number of people from mainland China, including professionals, skilled workers, investors and young people who come to study in UK’s schools and universities. The existing literature on the Chinese in Britain has predominately focused on the Cantonese-speaking communities from Hong Kong and to a lesser extent Southeast Asian countries. There is an urgent need to document and conceptualize this important demographic and cultural shift, not only for a better understanding of the new development of Chinese communities in the UK but also for the benefit of Britain whose future is increasingly built upon its understanding of and relations with the rest of the world including China. 

This conference is aimed at addressing this gap by bringing together researchers, Chinese language teachers, community leaders and policy makers to identify and examine the changing linguistic and cultural landscape of the Chinese in Britain. It seeks to (1) unveil the ways in which the Chinese in Britain have changed into an unprecedentedly diverse and dynamic society in the dual contexts of China’s global rise and multicultural Britain; (2) explore new features and dis/continuity in the transformation of the British Chinese communities, mediated by (sub) ethnicity, linguistic identity, class, gender and generation; (3) discuss the extent to which this demographic and cultural change is shaped by and shaping the relationship between global China and post-Brexit Britain.  

Conference speakers:


Caroline Knowles (Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Li Wei (Professor and Chair of Applied Linguistics and Director of the Centre for Applied Linguistics, University College London)

With contributions from:

Freya Aitken-Turff, Eona Bell, Harriet Evans, Jing Huang, Paul Kendall, Denise Kwan, Jackie Jia Lou, Xiao Ma, How Wee Ng, Giulio Verdini, Natalie Vujasin, Gerda Wielander, Anne Witchard, Maggie Hoi Lam Wong, Yan Wu, Lini Xiao, Chen Yang, Diana Yeh, Vanessa Yim

Chinese in Britain full conference programme       

For further information and to book tickets, please see the conference webpage. This conference is hosted by HOMELandS (Hub on Migration, Exiles, Languages and Spaces) in collaboration with the Contemporary China Centre of University of Westminster, and supported by the Language Acts and Worldmaking Small Grant Scheme.