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

  • Author / Creator
    Yochim, Lorin Geoffrey
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Educational Policy Studies
  • Specialization
    • Theoretical, Cultural, and International Studies in Education
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Kelly, Jennifer (Educational Policy Studies)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Guo, Shibao (School of Education)
    • Hanser, Amy (Sociology)
    • Kachur, Jerrold (Educational Policy Studies)
    • Wu, Joe (Secondary Education)
    • Taylor, Alison (Educational Policy Studies)