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The image of China in German textbooks

The image of China in German textbooksThe image of China in German textbooks

Research question of the German-Chinese textbook project:

The research group aims to determine what ideas and knowledge about China German adolescents receive through textbook texts. Of particular interest is reconstructing the image of China that emerges from the selected textbooks. The project seeks to clarify whether German textbooks may portray China in a one-sided, distorted, negative manner. Several sub-studies are conducted as part of the project.

Study I examines a sample of 71 textbooks (textbook list) for the inferred image of the nation and potential national stereotypes.

In Study II, from a selection of 71 books, the China-related findings are examined from the foreign perspective of the German research group and concurrently from the presumed foreign perspective of the Chinese group. The study focuses on the role of researchers' nationality in the interpretation of texts with respect to nation-image research.

A Study III, currently in data collection, compares the representations of China with those of the USA in the same books and aims to answer whether the portrayals of the two nations differ regarding the transmission of a reflective, contradictory national image. Student qualification papers attached to the comparative study examine the perception of China or the USA by young people using so-called 10-minute papers, short student essays based on a writing prompt, to gain insights into the nation images of students from 11th-grade grammar schools.

Methodological approach:

The grammar school textbooks in the subjects of history, geography, and politics from the publishers Klett and Cornelsen for the federal states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia undergo content analysis. Both frequency analysis methods for thematic structure and valence analyses to examine latent evaluations are used. The textbooks are examined not only for explicit chapters on China but also for mere mentions of China in other chapters. In Study II, by providing both research groups with identical materials for examination, this approach allows attributing any differences in findings to third variables. Thus, the assessments of the German research group may reveal foreign (= German) images of China, while the findings of the Chinese side can be explained by their self-image and perceived foreign image.

Status of the work (Dec. 2023): Publication on Study I in the review process.


Principal Investigator(s) at the University Prof. Dr. Jutta Mägdefrau (Lehrstuhl für Erziehungswissenschaft mit Schwerpunkt empirische Lehr-/Lernforschung), Prof. Dr. Andreas Michler (Professur für Didaktik der Geschichte)

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