'Tibetanness' Under Threat?

Neo-Integrationism, Minority Education and Career Strategies in Qinghai, P.R. China


In 'Tibetanness' Under Threat?, Adrian Zenz pioneers an analysis of significant recent developments in Qinghai's Tibetan education system. Presently, Tibetan students can receive native language education from primary to tertiary levels, while university minority departments offer Tibetan-medium majors from computer science to secretarial studies.

However, positive developments are threatened by the dire career prospects of Tibetan-medium graduates. Tibetans view marketisation as the greatest threat to ethnocultural survival, with their young generation being lured into a Chinese education by superior employment prospects. But Zenz questions the easy equation of Tibetan education as 'unselfish' ethnic preservation versus the Chinese route as egocentric careerism, arguing that the creative educational strategies of Tibetans in the Chinese education system are important for exploring and expressing new forms of 'Tibetanness' in modern China.

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Adrian Zenz, Ph.D. (1974), obtained an MA in Development Studies before managing development projects in China. He then pursued an MPhil and a PhD at the University of Cambridge, focusing on Tibetan education and ethnicity-career dynamics in Qinghai, Western China.

'not many works carry the potential of injecting fresh perspectives into the polarized understandings of development in Tibet as either domination/subjugation or liberation/progress. Adrian Zenz offers this potential in his book (...). With a focus on the ever-sensitive subject of education, the book strikes a nuanced balance between the agency–structure dualism of Han Chinese dominance versus Tibetan-led initiatives that subvert or counter this dominance. In particular, it offers a rare insight into the dynamics of minority education that will unsettle the dominant view that Tibetan-medium education has been eroded since the “golden years” of Tibetanization in the 1980s.(...) Overall, the value of his work is immense for our understanding of contemporary Tibet, minority nationality policy in China, and the anthropology of education more generally.'
Andrew M. Fischer, The China Quarterly, 219 (2014)

'Adrian Zenz’s 'Tibetanness’ under Threat? is one of the most informative publications concerning the current politics of Tibetan education and ethnic identity in the People’s Republic of China. (...) Based on his long-standing fieldwork, Zenz argues against the existing dualism of the ‘oppressed Tibetans’ and the ‘assimilatory state’ as a commonly accepted scholarly perspective. His study of Tibetan identity, or ‘Tibetanness’ in his own coinage, goes beyond the conventional understanding of ethnicity based on natural factors such as language, culture and ancestrally defined homeland.(...) This book is an integral part of modern/contemporary Tibetan studies situated in the multi-dimensional context of China’s modernization,politics of ethnic identity, and globalization.(...) Zenz has done a marvellous job capturing the dynamics of divergent
intra-Tibetan debates and external forces of change ensuing from China’s modernization and economic globalization.'
Dan Smyer Yü, Center for Trans-Himalayan Studies, Yunnan Minzu University, China, China Information, 29/1 (2015)
Minority education studies, Inner Asian studies, and Chinese studies centres and programmes; academic libraries; related post-graduate programmes; academics in these fields; China minority education focused organizations and think tanks.
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