Overthrowing the First Mountain: Chinese Student-Migrants and the Geography of Power

Anni Kajanus


This article uses Mahler and Pessar’s (2001, 2006) model of “geography of power” to interrogate how the general dynamic of Chinese student migration generates a variety of experiences at the individual level. Each Chinese student-migrant embarks on their journey from a different position vis-à-vis the flows and interconnections of the international education market. Some of them set out to achieve concrete goals, while others are motivated by a more intangible mission to become cosmopolitan subjects. As they move around, their shifting position in the hierarchies of nationality, class, gender, and generation influences their decision-making and their experiences. These power systems function simultaneously on multiple geographical scales, exemplified by the contradictory ways gender operates in the family, education, work, and marriage. To further develop the connection this model makes between personal characteristics, cognitive processes, and various power systems, I draw attention to the politics of ordinary affects.

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