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Getting ahead while retaining ethnic salience : educational mobilities, class, and empowerment of a Tibetan student in China.

Yang, Miaoyan and Xu, Cora Lingling (2022) 'Getting ahead while retaining ethnic salience : educational mobilities, class, and empowerment of a Tibetan student in China.', Asia Pacific journal of education., 42 (2). pp. 335-349.


Adopting empowerment as a theoretical lens, this paper examines how a combination of structural (particularly class background) and individual factors (particularly empowering agents and a strong personal will to achieve) have contributed to school success and ethnic identity formation of minority students in China. Our longitudinal study on a Tibetan student (Dolma) from middle-class background who completed seven-year dislocated secondary schooling and four-year undergraduate studies in China’s interior (Neidi) suggests the complexity and lack of institutional empowerment in every-day schooling. Although the implementation of preferential policies has expanded educational opportunities for ethnic minorities, the systemic failure to acknowledge the ethnic capital of minority groups at large accounts for the struggles along Dolma’s educational mobilities. Thanks to two teachers who acted as empowering agents, Dolma’s school adaptation in neidi was made less bumpy. While parental involvement was largely missing during the dislocated secondary schooling, her middle-class background greatly facilitated Dolma’s social adaptation and educational success in undergraduate and postgraduate studies. With a strong will to represent Tibetan culture appropriately to the mainstream society, Dolma gradually learned to get ahead while retaining her ethnic salience. This study calls for more culturally reflexive policy changes to achieve institutional empowerment of ethnic minority students.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Ethnicity, class, empowerment, Tibetan, educational mobility.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Asia Pacific journal of education on 22 October 2020 available online:
Date accepted:02 October 2020
Date deposited:05 October 2020
Date of first online publication:22 October 2020
Date first made open access:22 April 2022

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