China in the World: An Anthropology of Confucius Institutes, Soft Power, and Globalization

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Paperback: $28.00 $19.60
ISBN-13: 9780824884260
Published: January 2020
Hardback: $68.00 $47.60
ISBN-13: 9780824878207
Published: March 2019

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246 pages
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  • About the Book
  • Confucius Institutes, the language and culture programs funded by the Chinese government, have been established in more than 1,500 schools worldwide since their debut in 2004. A centerpiece of China’s soft power policy, they represent an effort to smooth China’s path to superpower status by enhancing its global appeal. Yet Confucius Institutes have given rise to voluble and contentious public debate in host countries, where they have been both welcomed as a source of educational funding and feared as spy outposts, neocolonial incursions, and obstructions to academic freedom. China in the World turns an anthropological lens on this most visible, ubiquitous, and controversial globalization project in an effort to provide fresh insight into China’s shifting place in the world.

    Author Jennifer Hubbert takes the study of soft power policy into the classroom, offering an anthropological intervention into a subject that has been dominated by the methods and analyses of international relations and political science. She argues that concerns about Confucius Institutes reflect broader debates over globalization and modernity and ultimately about a changing global order. Examining the production of soft power policy in situ allows us to move beyond program intentions to see how Confucius Institutes are actually understood and experienced in day-to-day classroom interactions. By assessing the perspectives of participants and exploring the complex ways in which students, teachers, parents, and program administrators interpret the Confucius Institute curriculum, she highlights significant gaps between China’s soft power policy intentions and the effects of those policies in practice.

    China in the World brings original, long-term ethnographic research to bear on how representations of and knowledge about China are constructed, consumed, and articulated in encounters between China, the United States, and the Confucius Institute programs themselves. It moves a controversial topic beyond the realm of policy making to examine the mechanisms through which policy is implemented, engaged, and contested by a multitude of stakeholders and actors. It provides new insight into how policy actually works, showing that it takes more than financial wherewithal and official resolve to turn cultural presence into power.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Jennifer Hubbert, Author

      Jennifer Hubbert is chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and associate professor of anthropology and Asian studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • The larger contribution of [China in the World] is an ethnographically informed reflection on how Americans (and to a lesser extent the Chinese) conceptualize global hierarchies. As the book progresses, the discussion is ultimately less about the workings of CIs themselves and more an invitation to American readers to reflect on how they think about China. . . . In a moment when discussions about global China are becoming dangerously polarized in the context of crises in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and US-China geopolitical competition, and when scholars debate the ethics of taking stands, the kind of patient ethnographic analysis Hubbert provides is even more important than usual.
      —Derek Sheridan, Academia Sinica, H-Net Reviews (H-Diplo)
    • Jennifer Hubbert’s fascinating book casts a critical lens on China’s most important yet controversial project for cultivating soft power. Eschewing simplistic arguments about assumed censorship and threats to liberal democracy, her rich ethnographic study of the Confucius Institute program shows what actually happens in the classroom and how cultural knowledge about China is produced and consumed. In the process, Hubbert invites us to question the concept of free speech and rethink fundamental Western assumptions about modernity and globalisation. China in the World is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding contemporary US-China relations, cultural diplomacy, and the anthropology of policy.
      —Cris Shore, Goldsmiths University of London
    • The main problem with Confucius Institutes, as Hubbert so clearly shows, is not that they curtail free speech or violate human rights, but that they are implemented through administrative agreements that affront liberal democratic principles of shared governance by which teachers and faculty, not administrators or politicians, are recognized as experts of their fields. Written with empathy and understanding for Confucius Institute teachers and students, China in the World is an important read for everyone interested in unpacking the complexity of arguments about Confucius Institutes today.
      —Amy Stambach, University of Wisconsin–Madison
    • Jennifer Hubbert’s study of China’s global Confucius Institute program offers a nuanced and carefully crafted perspective through an anthropological lens. . . . Using both ethnographic and archival research techniques, Hubbert takes an anthropological approach to examine China’s soft power policy in practice through the experiences of the Confucius Institute program of teachers, students, administrators and parents. This book goes beyond examining documents and investigates first-hand what happens in the CI classroom and during CI-sponsored activities such as the ‘Chinese Bridge’ immersion trips to China. It also examines how the contentious issues in the public debate about China – particularly the ‘three Ts’ of Tiananmen, Taiwan and Tibet—and Falun Gong—are dealt with in Confucius Institute teaching and learning activities.
      —Joanne Barker, RMIT University, Australian Universities' Review