Identity and Issues of Socio-Cultural Status in the Portuguese Community in Postcolonial Macau


Vanessa Amaro

PhD defended at: 

University of Macau, Department of Communication



This thesis explores, analyzes and exemplifies the situation of Portuguese residents in the context of postcolonial Macau, with particular reference to the contexts of history, identity and language maintenance, acquisition and use. I address how Portuguese identity has been inflected by postcolonial contexts and issues; how this has changed since the handover to the People’s Republic of China in December 1999; and the main issues, sites and factors in the expression of contemporary Portuguese identity in Macau.
Through in-depth interviews, participant and non-participant observations, review of documents, and supplementary textual analysis, this research project aims to provide an understanding of the relationship between Portuguese subjects living in Macau and the Chinese Macau culture. The objective of the research is to show the ways in which Portuguese individuals negotiate and respond to conventional linguistic hierarchies, and whether historical and power relations influence the way the Portuguese perceive themselves and their relation to Macau after almost 450 years. A set of socio-cultural theories are used in order to carry out this work, most specifically with regard to issues of intercultural relationships, postcolonialism, identity, migration and language status and use.
In terms of theoretical perspectives, I draw primarily on the contributions of postcolonial theory, in an attempt to understand the extent to which Macau displays features of postcoloniality, and to what degree the contemporary context influences or even redefines Portuguese identity. My focus is not on the colonized subject, but on how the experience of colonization affects the colonizer, and what happens when the power differentials that characterized this relationship are transformed.
Understanding the colonial and postcolonial situations of Macau also serves as a basis for analyzing the extent of the influence of colonial and historical structures and relations on contemporary Portuguese attitudes and practices. This research attempts to expand current understandings of intercultural communication in an international context such as Macau. Scholars have already noted the singularity of Macau, where history and culture has been shaped by complex relationships between the Chinese and the Portuguese over five centuries. This research also aims to broaden the scholarship on postcolonialism studies, offering a perspective on the postcolonial relations between colonizers and colonized.