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Publication Detail
Structures of feeling in language policy: the case of Tibetan in China
© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature. This article examines the case of minority language education in China, an area of enquiry that has received increasing attention as new studies report on how the lack of institutional recognition that minority languages receive erodes ethnic minority identities and disempowers social actors living in minority areas. Drawing on Williams’ (Marxism and literature, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1977) notion of “structures of feeling”, as well as on Woolard’s (Am Ethnol 12(4):738–748, 1985) critical take on the concepts of integrated linguistic market and culture hegemony, we empirically analyse individuals’ engagement with normative meanings and values linked to language policies. In particular, we focus on situated practices at a secondary school located in an ethnically diverse city in southwestern China in which Tibetans constitute the largest ethnic minority group. Our data show emergent communicative forms, or “structures of feeling”, through which school actors enact, challenge and shape an institutional logic that marginalises the Tibetan section within the school while constructing Tibetan language education as a pedagogical space with no room for Tibetan religious content. In so doing, our analysis sheds light on complex on-the-ground dynamics, with focus on shifting values on what constitutes appropriate knowledge and a “good” minority language school vis-à-vis wider socio-institutional processes of transformation.
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