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The Making of Transnational Distinction: An Embodied Cultural Capital Perspective on Chinese Women Students’ Mobility

Zhang, Siqi and Xu, Cora Lingling and , (2020) 'The Making of Transnational Distinction: An Embodied Cultural Capital Perspective on Chinese Women Students’ Mobility.', British Journal of Sociology of Education, 41 (8). pp. 1251-1267.


Transnational distinction is highly relevant in an age when western degree inflation intersects with harsh gender expectations for Chinese women student migrants, a significant group of players in the scene of UK higher education. Drawing on participant observation and interview data and building on existing theories of cultural capital, this article explores how 25 Chinese women students constructed ‘transnational distinction’. Through investigating how newly acquired embodied cultural capital during mobility contributed to the construction of distinction, we argue such distinction is manifested through participants’ cognisance of field-specific rules. Their understanding of the complex racial/ethnic and class fabrics of the British society impelled them to be creative in constructing their distinction, particularly seeking diverse peer reference groups. This adds to the extant literature through demonstrating that purposeful comparison and connections can be made across home, host and other destinations, in the women students’ quest for transnational distinction.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Distinction, cultural capital, field, Bourdieu, transnational mobility
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0.
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in British Journal of the Sociology of Education on 14 September 2020, available online:
Date accepted:30 July 2020
Date deposited:21 September 2021
Date of first online publication:14 September 2020
Date first made open access:14 March 2022

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