Study Tour for Mutual Understanding between Japan and Australia: A Tour in an Australian Aboriginal Community in South East Australia

A/Prof. Yugo Tomonaga1

1Ryukoku University, Kyoto, Japan

This paper overviews 2 types of study tour in Australian Indigenous Community, which was supported by a Japan municipal government, and by a private university through my coordination in Japan. After reviewing references on the study tour, the paper analyses problems and difficulties in the study tours and it also shows positive or negative outcomes from various perspectives among host, guest and coordinator.  Accordingly, it considers an interactive relationship among host, guest and coordinator in the study tours.  In the end, this paper proposes “Study Tour for Forum”, as a platform for the exchange of experiences among stakeholders from individual, local, national and international levels.


Yugo Tomonaga currently works at the Department of intercultural studies, Ryukoku University. Yugo does research in Social and Cultural Anthropology. He has worked with various minority groups in Australia and Japan such Australia Aboriginal People, Ainu, and Buraku-min.

Bruneian Students on Discovery Year: Reworking of Mobilities Aspirations and Mobilities Decision-Making

Dr  Siti Mazidah  Mohamad5

5Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, , Brunei

The field of international student mobilities remains a fertile ground for research as exemplified by the expansion of discourses on students mobilities by researchers within this field over the recent years (Yoon 2014, Cairns 2016, Doughty and Murray 2016, Yang 2018). While the interest in students’ mobilities and the recognition of experiential learning initiatives continue to grow in size and intensities, future aspirations, mobilities aspirations and mobilities decision-making by the students themselves within an institutionalised mobilities programme remain understudied especially in the context of Southeast Asian students mobilities (Ortiga 2018 and Phan 2018). Mobilities for educational purpose is not a straightforward matter informed by just the need to be future ready. A young and emerging university in Southeast Asia, we used Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s flagship Discovery Year programme as a research site and the experiences of the 47 students who have been on Discovery Year within the last two years elicited by semi-structured interviews, this paper aims to demonstrate the complexities of students mobilities in the context of their mobilities aspirations and decision-making. This paper also hoped to offer insights into the students’ reworking of aspirations and rethinking of adult future as an ongoing and reflexive activity in the context of today’s precarious condition locally and globally.


Siti Mazidah Haji Mohamad is a Lecturer at Universiti Brunei Darussalam. She graduated from Durham University (PhD in Human Geography) in 2015. Her main research interest lies at the intersection of geography, youth, and media and communication studies. She is a youth geographer researching youth’s mobilities, everyday social practices, and their social realities reflected through various new social media platforms.

(Not) Returning Tibet: Identity, Morality, and Future Projectivity among Tibetan and Han Mobile Youth in China

Dr Miaoyan  Yang3, Dr James  Leibold4

3Sociology Department, School of Sociology and Anthropology, Xiamen University, , China, 4Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy, La Trobe University, , Australia

Borrowing the concepts of identity, morality and future projectivity from cultural sociology, this article compares the ways Tibetan and Han youth with Tibet House Registration from a state-run dislocated boarding school program imagine their futures at different temporal points. With data collected from a longitudinal study between 2011 and 2018, this article points to two distinctive patterns of imagined futures between these Tibetan and Han Mobile Youth — although both groups embraced the idea of boarding schools in the interior cities as the start point of a bright future, Tibetan youth overwhelmingly connected their long-term futures with the Tibet land while Han youth tie theirs with the interior lands. The imagined futures projected their constantly constructed moral selves, ethnic identities and aspirational lifestyles in the short and long term. For Tibetan youth, returning Tibet serves to fulfill goals of constructing a better Tibet, taking up family responsibilities, and achieving upward social mobility. For Han youth, not returning Tibet predicts a return to normality, a process of destigmatisiation, and a free lifestyle. This study sheds light on the state schooling, ethnic politics and political socialization in China’s cultural and geographic peripheries.


Miaoyan Yang is an associate professor from Sociology Department, School of Sociology and Anthropology, Xiamen University. Her recent publication “Learning to be safe citizens: state-run boarding schools and the dynamics of Tibetan identity” is in Citizenship Studies.

James Leibold has research expertise on the politics of ethnicity, race and national identity in modern Chinese history and society, and is currently engaged in research on ethnic policy-making and ethnic conflict in contemporary China with a particular focus on the restive Western frontier and its Tibetan and Uyghur ethnic minorities. He is the author and co-editor of four books and over twenty-five peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and a frequent contributor to the international media on these topics.

“It could be the longest train trip in the world…”: Mobility and Subjectivity Transformations of Uyghur Educational Elites on a Train Journey across China

Dr Zhenjie  Yuan1

1Guangzhou University, , China

The Xinjiang Interior Class (hereafter “Xinjiangban”) is one of the most iconic minority education policies in contemporary China, involving the physical relocation of students from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (hereafter “Xinjiang”) to the eastern and central parts of the country. The existing scholarship has focused primarily on interethnic politics among students and graduates in schools, with less attention being paid to other spatial contexts that help understand the subjectivity politics that the policy involves. Drawing on detailed fieldwork on the train travelling across China from northwest to southeast, through which the students were sent into the new educational world, this is the first study seeking to examine the subjective experience of the Uyghur educational elites in such a space-in-motion. This study finds that the long-distance mobility provides the Uyghur students with specific time and space to rethink who they are and how they are connected to different places, people and communities. The students’ subtle subjectivity transformations entail a conflicting sense of eliteness, reinforced sense of self-discipline, and increased place identity to Xinjiang. These findings provide both scholars and policy-makers with a “datum point” to understand and to further interrogate the inter-group politics unfolded in the policy. By employing a mobilities perspective, this study attempts to provide a dynamic and critical approach to investigating the politics of ethnicity and interethnic relationships in China.


Zhenjie Yuan is an associate professor in the Centre for Human Geography and Urban Development, Guangdong Provincial Centre for Urban and Migration Studies, School of Geographical Sciences, Guangzhou University, China. His research is inter-disciplinary, traversing across geography of education, sociology of education and ethnic studies. He holds a BSc in Human Geography from Sun Yat-sen University, China, a M.Sc. in Human Geography from South China Normal University, China, and a PhD in Chinese Studies from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Email:

Theorizing Emerging Educational Mobilities in Asia: Peripheral Spaces, ‘Unlikely’ Actors, Fragmented And Uncertain Flows

Dr Peidong  Yang2

2National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, , Singapore

Recent Anglophone scholarship on educational mobility has witnessed a rising interest in student mobilities occurring between Asian societies or involving Asian societies as destinations. This paper attempts to characterise and theorise some aspects of this Asian educational mobility landscape, drawing on a pool of recently published studies (e.g. Le Ha, 2018; Ortiga, 2018; Yang, 2018a, 2018b) and ongoing work (e.g. Kheir, 2020; Koh, 2019; Lee, 2020) that deal with empirical cases from diverse contexts including Vietnam, Philippines, China, India, Taiwan, Malaysia, and more. Focusing on spaces, actors, and flows, the paper argues that across various Asian contexts, spaces previously marked as secondary or peripheral have increasingly plugged into configurations of cross-national educational provision. Active in these spaces are a range of actors – individuals and institutions – hitherto thought to be ‘unlikely’ participants of educational mobility, who in turn seem to chart pathways and flows characterised by uncertain processes and outcomes. The paper posits that such increasing instances of experimentation with new, untested and unpredictable educational arrangements reflect the articulations between individual social actors’ intensifying anxieties about social reproduction and mobility amidst wide-spread social stratification on one hand and institutions’ and states’ efforts to stay responsive and competitive in a global marketplace of higher education, on the other. As more individual, institutional, sometimes statal actors in Asia buy into or capitalise on such an intensifying ‘desire to circulate’ with regard to education (Collins, Sidhu, Lewis, & Yeoh, 2014; Raghuram, 2013), one consequence appears to be a proliferation of fragmented, segmented, unpredictable, and sometimes unsustainable, student mobility flows.


Peidong Yang (DPhil, Oxford) is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Studies Education at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Peidong’s core research interests are located at the intersections of education and migration/mobility. He has conducted several research projects on educational mobility, including mainland Chinese students recruited through Singapore’s state-sponsored scholarship schemes; Indian students pursuing English-medium medical degrees in China, and more recently, immigrant teachers in Singapore. His research interests also extend more broadly to immigration-related issues in the context of Singapore and social studies education topics such as diversity, identity, and globalization. Peidong is the author of International Mobility and Educational Desire: Chinese Foreign Talent Students in Singapore (Palgrave, 2016) and numerous international peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. At NIE Singapore, he teaches undergraduate and postgraduate level courses on identity, globalization, and sociology of education.

Mobility and Education in Asia (1/2): Movements and flows

Dr Zhenjie Yuan1, Dr Peidong  Yang2, Dr Zhenjie  Yuan1, Dr Miaoyan  Yang3, Dr James  Leibold4, Dr  Siti Mazidah  Mohamad5

1Guangzhou University, , China, 2National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, , Singapore, 3Sociology Department, School of Sociology and Anthropology, Xiamen University, , China, 4Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy, La Trobe University, , Australia, 5Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, , Brunei

Chair: A/Prof Zhenjie Yuan (co-convened by Vickie Zhang)


Education has become a high-profile social issue across Asia, involving complex, selective and far-reaching mobilities of people, things and ideas across traditional boundaries and borders. This session aims to explore how theories of mobility may be a productive interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of educational spaces, and to explore the way educational spaces harness and respond to frictions and flows that arise from the mobilities of people, things and ideas, focussing primarily on contemporary Asian societies.

This double-session consists of eight research contributions by researchers from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and China, who are working in the fields of human geography, anthropology, sociology, and educational studies. Topics range from student mobilities occurring between Asian societies, to challenges for and dilemmas of cosmopolitan learning in Singapore, to politics of lived experiences at an international branch campus in Malaysia, to experiences of mobility/immobility of ethnic minority students in China. Drawing on studies in the context of Asian societies, this session is expected to unveil the diversity of educational landscapes in contemporary Asia, and to be an interdisciplinary discussion on how Asian contexts could be a fertile ground for research on mobility and education.

Why Go Home to China? Voices of Chinese Alumni from an Australian University

Dr Jasvir Nachatar  Singh5

5La Trobe Business School, La Trobe University, , Australia

A few years ago, Chinese international students would want to stay and eventually migrate to Australia upon graduation. However, a recent trend shows that Chinese international students do want to go back home to their country. However, little is known as to why Chinese international students studying in Australia want to repatriate home. This paper closes the gap by employing semi-structured interviews with 19 Chinese graduates who studied at one Australian university and returned home upon graduation. Based on a thematic analysis, the results of this study highlight the push and pull factors for their repatriation decision back to their homeland, China. The push factors include stricter Australian migration policy, discrimination towards Chinese graduates by Australian employers and difficulty in obtaining suitable employment in Australia. Conversely, the pull factors include China’s booming economy and family pressures. The paper also discusses the micro (graduates and higher learning institutions) and macro (Australia and China economic) implications of the repatriation decisions made by Chinese graduates.


Dr Jasvir Singh is a lecturer at the Department of Management, Sport and Tourism, La Trobe University. Dr Singh’s research expertise is in higher education with a particular interest in exploring international students’ matters and has published numerous journal papers and presented at several international higher education conferences.

Poetics and Politics: Transformation of Learning Space of Cantonese in Guangzhou, China

Professor Wenling Li1

1Guangzhou University, , China

Along with the unprecedented breadth and intensity of migrating activities motivated by the increasing mobility, mobility is becoming an essential feature of the transition society. It strongly shapes the cognition of many social phenomena today. Language attached to migrating people is also forming an important flow feature. Cantonese dialect is one of the eight most powerful dialects of Chinese language, its propagation process has the complex characteristics of migration diffusion and expansion diffusion from the perspective of cultural diffusion; and it has a long history of enduring and very emotional from the perspective of cultural ecology. However, in the past 40 years, China has undergone major social transformations such as reform and opening up, Chinese economic take-off and globalization, the language requirements of human interaction have changed dramatically; and the learning and survival of dialects are also facing unprecedented challenges. This paper attempts to explore the learning space of dialect preservation in the game of localization and globalization takes the popularity and weakening of Cantonese dialect as an example.


Wenling Li is a professor in the School of Geographical Sciences, Guangzhou University, China. Her research interests include cultural norms in education and geography education in China’s higher educational system, focusing primiarily on how knowledge is reproduced and dilievered in different social contexts.

Singapore International Education Hub and Its Dilemmas: The Challenges and Makings for Cosmopolitan Learning

Dr Hannah  Soong3

3School of Education, University of South Australia, , Australia

Higher education in Asia is massifying at an exceptional pace and scale. In this paper, I ask how practices and discourses which inform the internationalisation of Singapore’s higher education can provide opportunities for developing cosmopolitan learning that it claims to provide. Cosmopolitan learning is closely related to cross-border student mobility and plays an important role in shaping the international students’ identities, aspirations and worldviews. Based on a recent study in Singapore of a group of international students from various parts of Asia and Europe, this paper attempts to bring the theoretical and grounded realities of cosmopolitan learning in an Asian context into the fore. The aim of the paper is to provide a useful frame for rethinking the purpose of international education for cosmopolitan learning in an increasingly interconnected world that is strewn with ambivalence, and what that means in the context of Singapore as an erudite nation-state critical to building Asian education hub aspirations.


Dr Hannah Soong is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, University of South Australia. Hannah’s research explores the nexus between education and migration, and her current research publications and projects lie in the empirical studies and theorisation of transnational mobility of international students, migrant teachers, and the impacts of parent’s aspiration on their children’s education and wellbeing in Australia and Asia.

Altered Aspirations and Frictional Encounters at a Mainland Chinese University Branch Campus in Malaysia

Dr Sin Yee  Koh2

2School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University Malaysia, , Malaysia

Malaysia aims to be an international and regional higher education hub. It currently ranks number three globally (after China and Dubai) in terms of hosting international branch campuses (IBCs). Xiamen University Malaysia (XMUM), the first branch campus of a mainland Chinese public university, is the latest addition to Malaysia’s IBC landscape. Based on ongoing research since 2018 involving interviews (with students, faculty and administrative staff) and on-site observations, this paper examines XMUM as an educational socio-spatial bubble that is host to intersecting institutional, staff and student mobility aspirations. The paper finds that there are distinct mobility aspirations amongst different user groups (mainland Chinese staff and students, local Chinese-Malaysian students, “other” international staff and students). However, after landing in XMUM, these aspirations become altered or curtailed as students and staff run into frictional encounters with university and broader institutions as well as with “others” on campus. Drawing upon these narratives of frustration and disenchantment, ignorance and ambivalence, as well as acceptance and resilience, this paper offers a glimpse into the complex and contradictory lived experiences at this IBC. This paper calls for critical attention to the disconnect between institutional educational aims and the lived realities of consumers and users of higher education.


Sin Yee Koh ( is Senior Lecturer at the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Monash University Malaysia. She is a human geographer working at the intersections of migration studies, urban studies, and postcolonial geography. She is author of Race, Education, and Citizenship (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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