East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

(Nov. 18) Liping Wang, “Collective Belonging or Individual Calling: Language and Ethnic Identity of Ethnic Minorities in China”




“Collective Belonging or Individual Calling: Language and Ethnic Identity of Ethnic Minorities in China” 

Liping Wang

Graduate School of Education, Peking University

(UChicago Sociology Alumna)



Nov. 18th, Mon 4:30-6:00 pm

Tea Room, Social Science Research Building (2nd floor).

Refreshment will be provided




Minority education in contemporary China consists of two systems: a bilingual education system that greatly emphasizes the ethnic minority language, and a monolingual Chinese education system. These two linguistic-education programs have significant influence on self-identity. This paper, which is based on 57 in-depth interviews conducted with those who identify as Mongols, Tibetans and Uighurs, examines the distinct conceptions of ethnicity held by ethnic-language educated and Chinese educated minorities, and their distinct paths of ethnic identity formation. Members from both groups can develop a strong ethnic identity. However, the former are less confident than their Chinese-educated peers in striving towards academic and professional achievements, but more competent in mastering their ethnic language. Language is central to their self-knowledge, which is nurtured in community life and conferred by their ancestors. They revere tradition and have moral pride in preserving their ethnic culture. In contrast, the Chinese-educated ethnic minorities often view ethnicity as an individual calling. Their ethnic consciousness is enhanced through reflective learning, not communal participation. Language has an important, but not central position in their knowledge of ethnicity. They do not inherit, but acquire, their ethnic identity by questioning and struggling with it. Education experiences largely explain for the divergence.

* Subscribe  to our workshop mailing-list at: https://lists.uchicago.edu/web/info/east-asia

* Abstract or description of each presentation will be posted on our website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/eastasia

* Questions and comments can be addressed to the student coordinators Yuchen Yang: yucheny@uchicago.edu and Linzhuo Li: linzhuoli@uchicago.edu

*Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance please contact the student coordinators in advance.

The East Asia Workshop is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences.


Wang, Liping – Collective Belonging or Individual Calling

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.