A language-informed case study approach to elucidate the intersections of race, ethnicity policy, and power

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperspeer-review

Abstract

This paper provides a critical re-examination of prevailing case study approaches that select ethnic minority cases based on racial identities. It revisits the importance of distinguishing between concepts of ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ (Brubaker, 2004 Wallerstein, 1991), and proposes a language-informed approach to reconceptualize these constructs in view of the power dynamics that results in their conflation.

I examine the language developments that structure the school context to highlight the power dynamics of Hong Kong’s shifting identity from special administrative region to its eventual integration into Mainland China. A language-informed approach provides an illustrative case of language developments that propel schools into the unintended consequence of enculturating Cantonese-speaking (Hong Kong) students to embrace Mandarin (Mainland). Language developments coalesce into a coherent strategy that elicits the voluntary cooperation of autonomous Hong Kong schools to conflate the race and ethnic identities of Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking students.

Lexis Elementary is a school in Hong Kong located near the border of Mainland China. Due to poor school enrolment, it had a close-shave with school closure. The school survived by enrolling students from across the border from Mainland China, where the language is Mandarin rather than Cantonese spoken in Hong Kong. The consequence is a transformation in the school language profile. From juggling between English and Cantonese, Lexis Elementary students are now predominantly Mandarin speakers.

The case study demonstrates how the economics of school survival coalesce with language developments to produce trickle-down effects on the conflation of race and ethnic identities. It highlights the need for language-informed case studies to chart the structural racism that underlie the complex webs race and ethnic identities entrenched in language development. I draw attention to how ethnic minorities are sequentially rendered invisible and subsumed into a single, purportedly ‘homogenous’ racial entity (Balibar, 1991; Carter, 2000; Goldberg, 2000). Copyright © 2020 All Academic, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Citation

Lee, D. H. L. (2019, April). A language-informed case study approach to elucidate the intersections of race, ethnicity policy, and power. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) 2019 Annual Meeting, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto, Canada.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'A language-informed case study approach to elucidate the intersections of race, ethnicity policy, and power'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.