Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Religious and Theological Studies

First Advisor

Jacob N. Kinnard, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Katherine Turpin

Third Advisor

Ginette Ishimatsu


Global Christianity, Hybridity, Identity construction, Postcolonial discourse


This dissertation interrogates the assertion in postcolonial scholarship, especially from the work of Homi Bhabha that the construction and performance of hybrid identities act as a form of resistance for marginalized communities against structures of oppression. While this study supports this assertion, it also critiques how hybridity fails to address issues of unequal power relations. This has led to an uncritical use of hybridity that reproduces the very idea of static identity which its proponents claim to transcend.

Through qualitative study of Chinese members of a Pentecostal church in Malaysia, this study argues that church members engage in "unequal belonging" where they privilege certain elements of their identities over others. In concert with Pierre Bourdieu's conceptions of habitus, field, and capital, unequal belonging highlights how hybridity fails to capture the intersecting and competing loyalties, strategies, and complexities of identity formation on a contextual level. Unequal belonging challenges postcolonial scholars to locate the subtle workings of power and privilege that manifest even among marginalized communities.

The study first situates the Chinese through an analysis of the historical legacy of British colonialism that has structured the country's current socio-political configuration along bounded categories of identification. The habitus constrains church members to accept certain Chinese ethnic markers as "givens." Although they face continuous marginalization, interviewee data demonstrates that church members negotiate their Chineseness and construct a "Modern Chinese" ethnic identity as a strategic move away from Chinese stereotypes. Moreover, conversion to Christianity affords church members access to cultural capital. Yet, it is limited and unequal capital. In particular, the "Chinese Chinese," who church members have demarcated as backward and traditional, are unable to gain access to this capital because they lack fluency in English and knowledge in modern, westernized worldviews.

Unequal belonging nuances monolithic conceptions of hybridity. It demonstrates how church members' privilege of Christianity over Chineseness exposes the complex processes of power and privilege that makes westernized-English-speaking Chinese Christians culturally "higher" than non-English-speaking, non-Christian, Chinese. This study provides significant contribution to the complex aspect of hybridity where it is both a site of resistance and oppression.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Eu Kit Lim

File size

329 p.

File format





Religion, Asian Studies, Comparative Religion