Forging Steel: Schools, Success, and the Making of Persons in a Chinese County Seat
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CitationZhang, Min. 2014. Forging Steel: Schools, Success, and the Making of Persons in a Chinese County Seat. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractThis dissertation addresses the question of how teenagers are educated for success in Chinese schools. Drawing upon 16 months of fieldwork in a county-level town located in northwest China (Shaanxi Province), this study focuses on teenagers' lived experiences of schooling and the complex process by which schools forge character and create "adults" in the context of state discourse and local practices. I show that while students are increasingly emerging as self-fulfilling individuals, who seek personal advancement, traditional ideas regarding filial piety and self-cultivation have remained as vital components of an ideal person in China's school system. In practice, local teenagers, who are the focus of my work, are encouraged to concentrate primarily on schoolwork and defer immediate gratification for the chance of future success. This study further explores the recent transformation of the local school into an institution reliant on collective discipline, paternalistic pedagogical practices, and management-oriented goals in the emerging neoliberal global economy. Driven to succeed in a society increasingly dominated by economic competition and social anxiety, local teenagers are also forced to confront the structural frustrations of the life on the margins of Chinese modernization. By examining the effects of success-driven culture on the subject formation among teenagers living in county-level towns, this study also provides insight into the dynamics of the ongoing social reproduction and stratification in the rapidly changing political economy of late-Socialist China.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11744467
- FAS Theses and Dissertations 
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