To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Constructing social networks and mobilizing social capital: Case studies of two Tibetan students in a Beijing inland boarding school

Donghui Zhang (School of Education, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China)

International Journal of Comparative Education and Development

ISSN: 2396-7404

Article publication date: 18 April 2019

Issue publication date: 31 July 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The 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/approach

This study is based on ethnographic fieldwork with two Tibetan students (Dorji and Lhamo) in a Beijing inland boarding high school.

Findings

This 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/implications

However, 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/value

The 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.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Writing of the paper was supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, and the Research Funds of Renmin University of China (Project No. 16XNB016).

Citation

Zhang, D. (2019), "Constructing social networks and mobilizing social capital: Case studies of two Tibetan students in a Beijing inland boarding school", International Journal of Comparative Education and Development, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 164-178. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCED-11-2018-0051

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited