Call for Papers: Online Seminar “Chinese Educational Mobilities in Europe and Beyond”

Organizers: Sofia Gaspar (CIES-Iscte, Portugal), Fanni Beck (CEU, Hungary)
Date: 3rd February 2023 (Friday) 
Format: Online

Abstract: International student migration has been of scholarly interest for decades. However, most attention has been given to tertiary education, and educational mobility in the pre-university stage (between 5 and 16 years) has been neglected, despite its importance. Primary and secondary educational mobilities differ qualitatively from international student migration in two important regards: first, in these cases, it is (more obviously) the parent, who makes the decision to migrate, decides where to migrate and until when. And secondly, in the vast majority of cases at least one parent accompanies the child on the migratory journey, coupling the educational rationale with other concerns like his or her own employment and or investment opportunities. In the past decade, educational migration of middle-class Chinese families is becoming increasingly visible in Europe, an emerging destination following other more established educational locations in Asia (Singapore and Hong Kong), and the Anglophone world (US, UK, Canada, Australia). This results in important educational, social, economic, and political ramifications in sending and receiving states facilitating and facilitated by policies and mobility regimes across countries. Recent research has highlighted that motivations to move for primary and secondary education are related to a better quality of lifestyle, an escape from pollution and the rat-race of Chinese mega cities, and the desire for a less competitive and less commodified educational and social environment for children as well as for freedom.

The Seminar “Chinese Educational Mobilities in Europe and Beyond”, on the scope of WG5 Chinese migration of CHERN Cost Action, intends to explore and analyse this topic, with the contribution of several scholars who have been dedicated to understanding this phenomenon. As such, we invite scholars to send their proposal on one of the following topics (but not limited to):

I. China

– Chinese educational system and the desire for overseas education
– Preparing for overseas studies in China: transnational educational industry at home

– “Happy education”: defining childhood happiness, successful childhood, and the articulation of their reconciliation

II. Comparative analysis of educational destinations: motivations, regimes, and integration

– Socio-historical dynamics of Chinese educational migration to Europe and beyond – New trends in Chinese educational migration to Europe and beyond

– Comparative analysis of educational migration destinations across countries and continents

– Migration agencies and education migration to Europe and beyond
– Complexity of educational mobility regimes between China and Europe

III. Family

– Chinese families’ motivations to move abroad

– The role of migrant parents in children’s education

– Types of family arrangements in educational migration

– Educational integration of Chinese students and their parents in European schools

– Negotiating “childhood happiness” and success in the migratory environment, anticipating the future


Proposals should be sent until 20th November 2022 to the organizers (Sofia Gaspar, and Fanni Beck, ), and they need to include a title, abstract (250 words), and 4 keywords.

The papers will be included as part of a Special Issue to be published on a leading English peer-reviewed a journal.

Managing editor: Lisa (Zhiyun Bian)

The Foreign Bully, the Guest, and the Low-income Knowledge Worker: Performing Multiple Versions of Whiteness in China

Research highlighted:

Lan, S. (2021). The foreign bully, the guest, and the low-income knowledge worker: Performing multiple versions of whiteness in China. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Dr Shanshan Lan, University of Amsterdam

With the rise of China as the world’s second largest economy, more and more white Westerners are moving to China to pursue better job or business opportunities. In addition to the so-called transnational elites, there is an increasing number of middle-stratum white migrants who work as English teachers, self-initiated entrepreneurs, locally hired staff in transnational companies, lecturers in Chinese universities, and artists or creative workers in China’s media and cultural sectors. Unlike the transnational elites who usually have limited social interactions with local Chinese (Yeo and Willis 2005), this new group often depends on professional and social networks with local Chinese to consolidate their business or career opportunities. Scholars have noted the decline of social privileges associated with white skin in many Asian societies (P.C. Lan 2011; Lundström 2014; Maher and Lafferty 2014). The diversification of the white population in China matches the expansion of job markets for “foreigners” from coastal areas to smaller cities in the interior of the country. Due to the recent tightening in immigration controls and the rising tides of popular nationalism in Chinese society, the lived experiences of non-managerial and non-elite white migrants are increasingly marked by considerable tensions between privileges and precariousness (Farrer 2019; S. Lan 2021; Lehmann 2014; Leonard 2019; Stanley 2013).  However, little has been written on how different groups of white migrants make sense of and try to cope with this daily experience of precariousness.

       This paper focuses on two research questions: What are the opportunities and challenges faced by white migrants in different fields of employment and different geographical locations under the evolving nature of multiple Chinese gazes? How do various groups of white migrants engage with, negotiate, or resist the Chinese gazes through quotidian racialized performances? Existing literature on international migrants in China mainly focuses on black Africans in Guangzhou (S. Lan 2017; Bodomo 2012; Haugen 2012). The relative absence of whites in migration studies literature points to the racialization of “migrant” as a category reserved mainly for non-white people (Lundström 2017). This research denaturalizes whiteness as an invisible norm by rethinking it in a context of international labor migration and cross-cultural interaction. The paper attends to social stratification within the white population in China by moving beyond the binary between transnational corporate elites, who are often considered as privileged migrants (Camenisch and Suter 2019; Farrer 2019), and foreign English teachers, who are stigmatized as occupying a lower status within the expatriate community (Leonard 2019; Stanley 2013). Instead, it focuses on a group of middling migrants (Lehman 2014), namely self-initiated migrants who are neither recruited by transnational companies nor by talent schemes of Chinese universities, nor by commercialized brokers (as is the case of many foreign English teachers). I argue that although these white migrants have little control of the multiple and contradictory ways that they are racialized in Chinese society, they still demonstrate a certain degree of agency in manipulating the Chinese gazes for their benefit through strategic performances of different versions of whiteness. In this vein, the paper highlights the situational nature of whiteness, which is mediated by nationality, gender, class, Chinese language skills, and length of stay in China.

Author Bio

Shanshan Lan is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and a member of the Moving Matters research group. She received her Ph. D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She had worked as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University and Connecticut College in the United States. Before joining the University of Amsterdam, she was a Research Assistant Professor in the David Lam Institute for East-West Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University. Lan is the Principal Investigator of the ERC project “The reconfiguration of whiteness in China: Privileges, precariousness, and racialized performances” (CHINAWHITE, 2019-2024). Funded by the European Research Council, this project examines how the western notion of whiteness is dis-assembled and re-assembled in the new historical context of China’s rise as a global superpower.