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Stig Thøgersen

The article focuses on Chinese students' hopes and expectations before leaving to study abroad. The national political environment for their decision to go abroad is shaped by an official narrative of China's transition to a more creative and innovative economy. Students draw on this narrative to interpret their own educational histories and prior experiences, while at the same time making use of imaginaries of 'Western' education to redefine themselves as independent individuals in an increasingly globalised and individualised world. Through a case study of prospective pre-school teachers preparing to study abroad, the article shows how personal, professional and even national goals are closely interwoven. Students expect education abroad to be a personally transformative experience, but rather than defining their goals of individual freedom and creativity in opposition to the authoritarian political system, they think of themselves as having a role in the transformation of Chinese attitudes to education and parent-child relations.

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The Art of Capture

Hidden Jokes and the Reinvention of Animistic Ontologies in Southwest China

Katherine Swancutt

Anthropology has, among its many accomplishments, become a ‘hyper-reflexive’ discipline that is mastered by anthropologists and their fieldwork friends. Today’s China offers an especially revealing lens onto anthropological reflexivity as it reintroduces animism among ethnic minorities and mobilizes a cosmological-cum-ecological ethos, replete with soul-searching and planet-saving behaviors. This article presents ethnography on the Nuosu of Southwest China, who use the ‘art of capture’ to reinvent local animistic ideas and the Chinese ‘ideology of animism’. In dialogue with a Nuosu ethnologist, rural Nuosu villagers, and a Nuosu anthropologist, I propose that ‘hidden’ knowledge and jokes underpin the expositions of native scholars, who interlace their academic work with local rituals. In this way, Nuosu academics, foreign anthropologists, and villagers all partake in the reinvention of Nuosu animism.

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Creative Encounters

African Trade and Chinese Oil Production in Western Chad

Nikolaus Schareika

The oil industry tends to remain disconnected from local realities surrounding production sites, a situation that can be explained by theories of enclaving and technological zones. Despite these barriers, local people try to connect to and profit from oil projects that are set up in their vicinity. This article explores the relationships between a Chadian merchant, who started as a worker in the oil fields, his suppliers of goods and credit, and a Chinese oil company. The analysis focuses on the improvisation that the merchant and his Chinese clients undertook in order to develop trade in a difficult supply situation. The African system of trade enabled the Chinese company to overcome challenges to its project, while helping the merchant convert oil money into commercial capital.

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Doing Personhood in Chinese Culture

The Desiring Individual, Moralist Self and Relational Person

Yunxiang Yan

This article starts with a brief ethnography of the social actions in which Chinese personhood is constructed and then proposes a tripartite approach to help make sense of personhood as both a state of being and the action of doing. In the process of doing personhood, the reflective and ethical self is consistently mobilized and employed to fight against embodied, individuated desires for the purpose of making a proper relational person who is both social and agentive. This interactive cycle among the individual, self and person in the construction of Chinese personhood manifests itself repeatedly in a lifelong process of becoming, marked by earned recognitions, instead of a clearly defined structure of being that is endorsed by a set of natural rights. Chinese personhood, therefore, is inherently dynamic.

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An Exogenous Path of Development

Explaining the Rise of Corporate Social Responsibility in China

Ka Lin, Dan Banik and Longfei Yi

Although the notion of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been largely Western driven, it has now also entered the popular discourse in many non-Western countries. In dissimilar social settings, the driving force of CSR development differs between its Western origins and its non-Western adaptors. This study examines the developmental dynamics of CSR in China, and how such force have influenced the CSR discourse in this country. This Chinese experience helps illustrate how an exogenous path of CSR development evolved in China. With this experience, we maintain that the standards of CSR have instrumental value in promoting social quality through its function on enterprises, in regard to improvising social relations of the companies with their employees, the local communities, and the public agents of localities.

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Camping in China with the Divine Jane

The Travel Writing of Reginald Farrer

Jeff Mather

Reginald Farrer (1880-1920) was a British writer and gardener who traveled and botanized in the western provinces of China during the early decades of the twentieth century. Farrer is perhaps best known for his contributions to gardening writing and botanical exploration; however, the primary focus of this article is his literary interests, and in particular, the intertexual relationship between his writing and Jane Austen's novels. Although scholarly work has investigated the postcolonial dimensions of Austen's fiction, little attention has been paid to the ways in which Austen's novels literally traveled. This article examines how Austen's fiction provided an unlikely lens for Farrer's view of China's border regions, and investigates both the difficulties and the liberating potential of reading Jane Austen in such an informal imperial context.

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Susanne Bregnbaek

This article is based on anthropological fieldwork undertaken at two elite universities in Beijing. It addresses the paradoxical situation of the many instances of suicide among Chinese elite university students in Beijing, which constitute a public secret. The pressure of education weighs heavily on the shoulders of China's only child in each family, known as the generation of little emperors and little empresses. Since the 1980s, the suzhi jiaoyu reforms (education for quality) have involved various attempts to reduce the pressure of education. However, simultaneously the aim is to increase the competitiveness of individuals. Drawing on existential and phenomenological thought, I suggest that the discourse seems to objectify and quantify a concern for well-being, rather than recognising its intersubjective character. Finally, I argue that the suicides are controversial since they are seen as a form of social criticism.

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Kang Hu and Raymond K. H. Chan

Promoting civic engagement could be a way of strengthening the social solidarity of China's urban population. The drastic socio-economic changes resulting from recent economic reform are likely to have a deleterious effect on social solidarity. Based on a survey conducted in 2010 in the Southern China city of Xiamen, this paper examines a specific form of civic engagement - citizen cooperation - to resolve community problems, and assesses its relationship with social capital. The study reveals that discrepancies in the level of civic engagement exist among urban residents and that inequality of social capital plays a significant role in these discrepancies. The findings suggest that such gaps could be addressed by increasing social capital, especially by expanding residents' personal community networks.

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Jost Wübbeke

China has argued that developed countries should take the lead in international climate change mitigation, while developing countries should be allowed to realize their economic development and implement voluntary measures. This position may seem purely political. However, this article shows that Chinese science also contributes to constructing the perspectives of development, equity, and responsibility. Chinese climate models, emission graphs, and graphs of future emissions are presented to show that these scientific inscriptions contain and coproduce these values in conjunction with political inscriptions. The findings demonstrate that scientific inscriptions are essential to stabilize the Chinese climate network, and that political practice cannot separate scientific facts from political contestation over climate and development.

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Diverse Driving Emotions

Exploring Chinese Migrants’ Mobilities in a Car-Dependent City

Sophie-May Kerr, Natascha Klocker and Gordon Waitt

In the industrialized West, cars are considered an essential part of everyday life. Their dominance is underpinned by the challenges of managing complex, geographically stretched daily routines. Drivers’ emotional and embodied relationships with automobiles also help to explain why car cultures are difficult to disrupt. This article foregrounds ethnic diversity to complicate notions of a “love affair” with the car. We report on the mobilities of fourteen Chinese migrants living in Sydney, Australia—many of whom described embodied dispositions against the car, influenced by their life histories. Their emotional responses to cars and driving, shaped by transport norms and infrastructures in their places of origin, ranged from pragmatism and ambivalence to fear and hostility. The lived experiences of these migrants show that multiple cultures of mobility coexist, even in ostensibly car-dependent societies. Migrants’ life histories and contemporary practices provide an opportunity to reflect on fissures in the logic of automobility.