This article, based on a qualitative research study with 66 rural female students attending five public universities and one public college in China, examines how these students negotiated the dominant discourse of quality (suzhi), which represents them as lacking in capacity and knowledge. Since the 1980s when China started implementing its economic reforms, the Chinese state has constructed the discourse of quality to ascribe China’s underdevelopment to the low quality of its population, said to hinder China’s attempts to catch up with the more advanced Western economies. My research findings show how these students have been systematically marginalized and discriminated against by this discourse that is often intertwined with that of urban-rural inequalities and patriarchy. Recognizing this, they developed counter-discourses to make meaning of their plight, and created alternative forms of knowledge to resist the dominant discourse in multiple ways.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.