Author: Rimkus, Fenja Monique
Title: Experiences, motivations and perceptions of Chinese learners in Cape Town : an ethnographic study of the Confucius Institute and the Chinese school in Cape Town
Advisors: Herold, David Kurt (APSS)
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2018
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Confucianism -- Study and teaching
Chinese language -- Study and teaching
Cultural diplomacy
Department: Department of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: 282 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: Contemporary academic debates surrounding China-Africa relations are overwhelmingly dictated by economic, financial and ideological aspirations. Cultural interactions and concern for local perceptions still remain in a marginalized position within this global debate. However, one debate in particular concerning China's cultural interactions is becoming increasingly noticeable in academic debates: the debate surrounding Confucius Institutes. Scholars and journalists predominantly argue on the basis of macro-level research and consequently identify Confucius Institutes as soft power wielding instruments of the Chinese government, which the regime uses to enhance China's image and thus sustains the host country's current position. Within the context of China-Africa relations, Confucius Institutes are believed to be especially influential as there is no existing infrastructure for Chinese language learning on the African continent. In order to examine this generalized statement, this study is based on the African country with the most Confucius Institutes (five) present: South Africa (more specifically Cape Town). The trend towards macro-level analysis in the existing scholarship on this topic unconsciously marginalizes the perceptions and motivations composing the micro-level and is heavily built upon the thought that soft power influences its recipients unconditionally. This dissertation sets out to prove therefore that the recipients have their own self-reflexive agency and are not merely susceptive to the influence a state entity wields through soft power. The aim is to unravel the voices on the ground through auto-ethnographic and ethnographic methodologies in order to study perceptions and motivations that are informed by previous experiences of the people who engage with the Confucius Institute, which is funded by the Chinese government and the local Chinese School, which is partly funded through the Taiwanese government. The findings show — through the inclusion of polyphonic opinions — that only people with specific past experiences tend to engage with the Confucius Institute or the Chinese School to study the Chinese language. Additionally, by including the social life-worlds of people in regards to this research topic, it becomes obvious that also the socio-demographic settings of these institutes play a role in the level of influence they are able to exert rather than soft power.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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