Asian American Speaker Series: Chinese Adoptee Identity, Community, and Activism

Co-sponsored by Asian American Studies Minor, China Care Club, East Asian Studies Andrea Louie, Professor of Anthropology, Michigan State University Grace Shu Gerloff, PhD student, Michigan State University

As Chinese American adoptees come of age, they continue to form identities that build upon, but also may depart from the ways they saw themselves growing up. Though they were born in China, Chinese adoptees are part of  broader Asian American communities and are therefore tied to complex histories that determine how they are viewed as racial and cultural minorities in the U.S. Drawing on our research interests and personal experiences, we will discuss the development of Chinese adoptee identities in the context of these processes, particularly in relation to social justice movements that extend beyond the Asian American community such as the Black Lives Matter movement. We examine how adoptees may grow to understand themselves as people of color within a U.S. racial system that treats race as a fixed, binary framework within which Asians are often positioned outside of or in between. 

This event is on Zoom; please register for the event:


Grace Shu Gerloff (she/her) is a second-year doctoral student in sociocultural anthropology at Michigan State University. She was adopted from China in 1997 and grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Currently, she is interested in exploring the ways Chinese-American adoptees who grew up in predominantly white environments navigate their racial identities within the context of movements for racial justice and activism/organizing efforts.  

Andrea Louie (she/her) is a Professor of Anthropology and is founding director of the Asian Pacific American Studies Program at Michigan State University.  She has conducted research exploring how ideas constructed around “Chineseness” as a racial and cultural identity have been reworked as transnational processes and bring Chinese from different parts of the world into contact with one another.  She is author of Chineseness Across Borders: Re-negotiating Chinese Identities in China and the U.S. (Duke University Press, 2004) and How Chinese Are You? Adopted Chinese Youth and their Families Negotiate Identity and Culture (New York University Press, 2015).  She has conducted research with her MSU colleagues on international Chinese students at MSU, funded by a Spencer Foundation Small Grant. With funding from a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, she is currently working on a book focusing on her maternal grandmother’s selection as U.S. Mother of the Year in 1952, tentatively titled Chinese American Mothering Across Generations: Toy Len Goon and the Creation and Recirculation of the Model Minority Myth.