Jinting Wu


On her book Fabricating an Educational Miracle: Compulsory Schooling Meets Ethnic Rural Development in Southwest China

Cover Interview of January 03, 2017


Through enforcing compulsory education and promoting rural tourism, the Chinese state joins hands with the market to transform the rural ethnic population into self-entrepreneurial individuals responsible for pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. Yet in doing so, ironies and unintended consequences abound. As I entered the labyrinth of Southwest China, I marveled at how the manifold and contradictory agendas captured rural ethnic schooling at a crossroads. I observed rural schools in two minority village-towns in Qiandongnan being turned into besieged workplaces, where teachers and students faced daily ordeals of discouraging, disorienting, and even deceitful practices. My ethnographic incursion into the classrooms, school yards, corridors, families, dinner tables, rice fields, and village markets afforded ample opportunities to understand what it was like to live, work, go to school, and drop out of school in a socioeconomically marginalized, ethnically-marked, geographically isolated region in Southwest China. Inside as well as outside schools, factors abound to shape the deeply distressed contour of rural education despite good policy intentions. What I present in this work in a sense resonates with familiar themes increasingly prevalent on a national and even global scale. Rural schooling is the sensitive reflector of larger social processes par excellence and the lens through which I investigate broader issues of school reforms, ethnic politics, migration, citizenship, and globalization, a scope that reaches beyond the immediate case of China.