Exploring Uyghur university students’ identities constructed through multilingual practices in China

Xiaoyan Grace GUO, Ming Yue Michelle GU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores how a cohort of tertiary-level Uyghur students contested and negotiated their identities through multilingual practices in the receiving community. Drawing upon interview data from fieldwork, this study indicates that these students experienced essentialist understandings and negative views in the host society. Participants symbolically struggled over the ethnicization process and contested stereotypical images by emphasizing the pure use of their mother language and resisting the use of Putonghua within the Uyghur community. However, the participants did not hold consistent and simplified views towards languages. In the host community, participants negotiated an elite identity as ‘Zhendan Uyghur,’ capitalizing on a repertoire of available resources including Putonghua and even local linguistic resources. Moreover, they developed awareness of and utilized the symbolic value of their ethnic resources, and learned and navigated highly valued Chinese knowledge. Despite the legitimate social positions they negotiated and imagined, due to their primordial community belongingness, minority elites faced potential challenges when translating symbolic resources into economic capital in a neo-liberal economy. Implications drawn from the findings are discussed. Copyright © 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)480-495
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number4
Early online dateMay 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2018



Guo, X. G., & Gu, M. M. (2018). Exploring Uyghur university students’ identities constructed through multilingual practices in China. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 21(4), 480-495. doi: 10.1080/13670050.2016.1184613


  • Ethnic minorities
  • Identity construction
  • Multilingual practices