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Community Cultural Wealth: Uyghurs, Social Networks, and Education

Global Education Colloquium

Speaker: Rebecca Clothey, Ph.D., Drexel University
Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rebecca Clothey
Rebecca Clothey, Ph.D.

Much of the research about education of minority ethnic groups within a majoritarian country context utilizes a deficit model in which minorities are seen as “lacking” certain skills, economic resources, and/or cultural capital that are readily available to the dominant ethnic group. From this perspective, this “lack” is viewed as a detrimental factor hindering minority students’ successful progress through school.

This presentation moves away from this view by employing Yosso’s framework of ‘community cultural wealth’ to explore the ways in which educated Uyghurs, an ethnic group of some 9 million people who are indigenous to China’s northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, build on social networks like family and friends to improve their own social standing and contribute to the benefit of their communities. Through Yosso’s lens, ethnic minorities have their own cultural capital, which is distinct from the dominant group, and which can also be maximized to garner a successful status within society.

Uyghurs, one of China’s 56 officially recognized ethnic groups, are a linguistic minority within China who speak the Uyghur language, a Turkic language utilizing a modified Arabic script, and most are practicing Moslems. This presentation will show ways in which Uyghurs draw from their own community resources to navigate within a Mandarin-dominant education and economic system, “capitalize” on their language and ethnicity, and also create systems within their own community to support others. The presentation is based on ethnographic fieldwork collected during the fall of 2013 within Xinjiang, where the researcher was a visiting scholar for five months, as well as interviews conducted in Xinjiang and eastern China during multiple visits between the years of 2010-2013.

About The Speaker

Dr. Rebecca Clothey has been a faculty member in Drexel University's School of Education since 2006 when she was hired away from a position in Beijing, China.  Her research focuses on access and equity issues in higher education, with a particular interest in education in China, Central Asia, and Turkey.

Dr. Clothey has lived in India, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and China, where she spent almost six years.  Prior to working at Drexel University she had been based at Capital Normal University in Beijing, China; Beijing Institute of Education, and Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, Sichuan.  In the fall of 2013 she was a visiting scholar at Xinjiang Normal University in Urumqi. She speaks Mandarin and has also studied Uyghur, a language spoken in China’s northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

She served as the Director of Drexel's Global and International Education program from spring 2008 to fall 2011, and Director of Drexel's Higher Education program from spring 2007 to spring 2010.