Standardizing Minzu: A Content Analysis of the Depiction of Shaoshu Minzu in Three Chinese Elementary Curriculum Standards and Textbooks
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This study analyzes the depictions of shaoshu minzu, or ethnic minority groups in China, in elementary curriculum standards and textbooks that are used in Chinese schools for three subjects—Moral Education and Life/ Society (MEL/S), Chinese Language (CL), and Minzu Solidarity Education (MSE). Previous studies of textbook representation of minority groups in culturally diverse societies indicate that these groups are often systematically excluded from the curriculum materials and that the depictions of minority groups often reinforce the dominant ideologies and the unequal power relationships between the minority and majority social groups. This study draws from the theoretical frameworks of critical studies of education and multicultural education, particularly the relationships between power and the knowledge construction process. Methodologically, this study adopts a combination of quantitative and qualitative content analysis. A sample of 74 textbooks published by three different publishers and the national curriculum standards for the three subjects were selected for analysis. Two electronic coding instruments were used to quantitatively code the texts and visuals in the textbooks and qualitative analysis was performed on all identified content that was related to the Chinese concepts of minzu. Results of this study revealed that shaoshu minzu in these textbooks were not only underrepresented but also misrepresented and that the knowledge about these groups was often constructed from the perspective of the dominant Han Chinese. Content about shaoshu minzu usually focused on selected stereotypical minzu features, such as minzu cuisine, clothes, singing and dancing, and holidays and festivals. Several ideologies and discourses that were highlighted in relation to the shaoshu minzu content included patriotism, the Zhonghua Minzu (Chinese Nation) identity, and minzu solidarity. Individuals and groups of shaoshu minzu were depicted as patriotic citizens who are members of the Zhonghua Minzu community and maintaining a solidary relationships with each other and with the Han Chinese. Shaoshu minzu-related content canonized in this way prioritized political unity over cultural diversity and reproduced the ideologies of the party-state about shaoshu minzu issues. I argued that such a representation of shaoshu minzu in textbooks reflected a process of normalization and standardization of the knowledge production of shaoshu minzu in China that reproduced and reinforced the cultural and political contexts in which the exclusion and stereotypization of shaoshu minzu are legitimized. Implications for teaching about shaoshu minzu, teacher education, and further research are also discussed.
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