PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to examine the life worlds of Tibetan students who participate in China’s inland boarding programs and seek to understand the social networks they develop in the Han-culture dominant school settings.Design/methodology/approachThis study is based on ethnographic fieldwork with two Tibetan students (Dorji and Lhamo) in a Beijing inland boarding high school.FindingsThis study found that the Tibetan students are capable social actors who construct two kinds of social networks, the “we” group (co-ethnics) vs the “they” group (cross-ethnics), and mobilize different social capitals strategically. The former provides them with emotional support, cultural affinity and a sense of belonging, while the latter helps them achieve instrumental outcomes, such as Mandarin proficiency, academic improvement and broadened horizons.Research limitations/implicationsHowever, the group boundary they draw between the two kinds of networks reflects the futility of government efforts to promote interethnic integration through the inland schools.Originality/valueThe issue of minority students as active agents in constructing social networks and mobilizing social capital in unfamiliar sociocultural settings is a relatively new research area (Reynolds, 2007; Holland et al., 2007), whereas the Tibetan students in China are among the least known in the existing scholarship.
International Journal of Comparative Education and Development – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 12, 2019
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