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Navigating the Aspirational City: Orders of Worth, Urban Renovation, and Educational Culture in Post-Socialist Urban China Open Access


Other title
critical geography
post-Mao China
epistemic reflexivity
aspirational cite
pedagogy of everyday life
urban renovation
aspirational habitus
revolutionary education
aspirational city
great proletarian cultural revolution
capital conversion
educational culture
cultural capital
orders of worth
critical ethnography
family education
Mainland China
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Yochim, Lorin Geoffrey
Supervisor and department
Kelly, Jennifer (Educational Policy Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Kachur, Jerrold (Educational Policy Studies)
Guo, Shibao (School of Education)
Hanser, Amy (Sociology)
Wu, Joe (Secondary Education)
Taylor, Alison (Educational Policy Studies)
Department of Educational Policy Studies
Theoretical, Cultural, and International Studies in Education
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
In this dissertation I present an account of the educational culture of a single city in north-central China. I use ethnographic methods to explore the perspectives of middle class parents on the meaning and purpose of “education” and the educational activities in which they engage. As this is also a critical ethnography, I respect the specificity and complexity of the beliefs, experiences, and practices of these parents, but remain cognizant of the relations that bind present to past, personal to cultural, and local to national and global. I compile a history of Revolutionary “orders of worth” culminating in the “aspirational cité,” a comprehensive set of evaluative standards that define the “human capital” conditions of possibility of a developed modern economy. I also describe a set of policies and practices known as san nian da bianyang by which the whole of Shijiazhuang is being demolished, re-built, and re-ordered. I reconstruct how the aspirational cité and the built environment of Shijiazhuang have come together at a particular moment in time, and the ways in which this configuration articulates with the educational ideas and practices of Shijiazhuang’s emerging middle class. I find that new Chinese cities house a middle class disposed to collect and activate stocks of economic, social, and cultural capital. They do so in a collection of pedagogical spaces within which the kinds of subjects imagined in the aspirational cité are subject to myriad forms of pedagogic action. This project is shifting the subjectivity of middle class pledges, embedded within the resurgent institution of the family, toward conspicuous consumption, social differentiation, family-level “individualization,” and “projects of the self.” Yet it has also sowed the seeds of its own destruction. Instead of contributing newly accumulated cultural capital to the task of nation building, many of these “new Chinese” focus on personal gain and even abandon the nation in whole or in part.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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