Rachel "Racquel" Lee (she/her/hers)

Graduate Student
Rachel "Racquel" Lee

Contact Information


B.A., Anthropology (China Studies, American Indian Studies), University of Washington, 2012
M.A., Sociocultural Anthropology, University of Washington, 2019
Ph.C., Sociocultural Anthropology, University of Washington, 2019

Joint ventures have played a major role in developing China’s innovation industries by selectively incorporating foreign knowledge and trends while limiting the influence of foreign companies. My dissertation, Innovation Bubbles: Social Experiments in Global Chinese Higher Education is an ethnography of how joint ventures have been used to experiment with alternative university designs tailored for China’s transition beyond manufacturing towards a knowledge economy. As part of this transition, the state has drastically expanded and reshaped higher education institutions to foreground innovation and funded a series of joint venture universities simulating American and European academic environments to test aspects of education reform. In these laboratory-like conditions, students are allowed to use VPNs to access foreign websites and have protected privileges for the freedom of speech within campus, while teachers are also granted limited deviation from censorship laws to experiment with Western-style education. Key to these transgressions and experimentations is the logic of innovation as the engine of economic growth. Deconstructing the contemporary uses of the term “innovation” alongside historical context for its current iterations in China, the book uses ethnographic storytelling to examine how processes of innovation are produced and taught to students. I conceptualize the promise and the limit of this innovation-driven logic as taking the form of “innovation bubbles”—designated spaces of exception to broader norms which produce and test alternative social futures. In doing so, I show how experimentation operates as a form of governance that concentrates power in China and argues that joint venture universities serve as prototypes for addressing both domestic and global problems in higher education.

Keywords: Transnational education and global subjectivities, knowledge economies and academic labor, theories of value, universities in China, modern Chinese history



Courses Taught

Summer 2021

Winter 2021

Additional Courses

Primary Instructor

  • ANTH 213: Anthropology and Sport (Summer 2021)
  • ENGL 199 H: Interdisciplinary Writing Linked with HSERV 100
  • ENGL 198 C/D/E: Interdisciplinary Writing Linked with G H 101
  • ENGL 298 B: Interdisciplinary Writing Linked with ANTH 213
  • ENGL 298 D: Interdisciplinary Writing Linked with JSIS 201
  • ENGL 298 E: Interdisciplinary Writing Linked with ANTH 215
  • ENGL 298 F: Interdisciplinary Writing Linked with ANTH 213



Home Department
Professional Affiliations
Institute of International and Comparative Education at East China Normal University

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