Navigating the Aspirational City

Urban Educational Culture and the Revolutionary Path to Socialism with Chinese Characteristics


Author: Lorin G. Yochim
The re-emergence of China as a world power promises to be the signal economic, political, cultural, and social development of the 21st century. In the face of its rise, fine grained accounts of the shape and texture of this new China are both timely and necessary.
Navigating the Aspirational City forwards a theory of contemporary Chinese urban educational culture that focusses on the influence of dominant conceptions of “the good citizen” and the material environment upon parents as they pursue their childrearing projects. The book provides a description of the beliefs and practices of urban Chinese parents as they “educate” their children. These beliefs and practices are placed in relation to a historical chain of ideas about how to best educate children, as well as within the urban context in which they are produced and reproduced, renovated, and transformed.
Beginning with a history of revolutionary “orders of worth” culminating in the “aspirational cité,” the book details the shifting standards that define the “human capital” conditions of possibility of a developed modern economy. It goes on to describe a set of policies and practices known as san nian da bianyang by which the whole of one particular city, Shijiazhuang, has been demolished, re-built, and re-ordered. Contemporary China is, the author contends, no less revolutionary than Mao’s, noting that parents’ beliefs and practices articulate with the present ideational and material context to produce what appears, at times, to be radical transformation and, at others, remarkable stability.

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Lorin G. Yochim, Ph.D. (2014), University of Alberta, is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education, Concordia University of Edmonton, Canada. He has published a number of articles focussed on the educational culture of contemporary China.
“This book makes an important contribution to discussions of educational, social, cultural and economic developments in China. Dr. Yochim is a superb writer and extraordinary scholar who brings advanced understandings grounded in his own intimate engagements with China, his prowess with Chinese culture and language, ethnographic research skills and his ability to apply various lenses (especially Bourdieu, Archer & Harvey) to developments in China over the last 50 years.” – Robert Tierney, University of British Columbia / Beijing Normal University / The University of Sydney
“This book is a fascinating read, and illuminates many aspects of my life in China that I was only partially aware of. Dr. Yochim has a unique insight into cultural matters of parenting in China, and he can help outsiders to have a balanced view of what are often contentious issues.” – David Turner, Beijing Normal University
List of Figures and Tables

Chapter 1: Scoping Chinese Educational Culture
 Research Problem & Questions
 Third-Tier City, First World Problems
 An Urban Educational Culture of Familial Aspiration
 Education, Family, City, Culture
 Conceptualizing Educational Culture
 Organization of the Book

Chapter 2: The Heavy Burden of Revolution
 Jianfu: Lightening the Heavy Burden
 Jianfu in the Early Revolutionary Period
 Jianfu in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Chapter 3: The “Reform” Era & the Emergence of the Aspirational Cité
 The Emergence of the Aspirational Cité
 Jianfu: A Flexible Policy
 Chapter 4: Building an Aspirational City
 Tangible Effects of Renovation
 Educational Institutions for the Aspirational City

Chapter 5: Educating Children in the Aspirational City
 The Parents
 Beliefs and Activities of Middle-Class Urban Parents

Chapter 6: Making One’s Way through the Field of Urban Educational Culture
 Negotiating & Navigating: The Logic of China’s Urban Educational Culture
 Jianfu Reconsidered
 Negotiating & Navigating Educational Culture
 The Aspirational Family?

Chapter 7: Urban Educational Culture Revisited
 Renovation and Desire in 2017

Appendix A: Methodological Preliminaries and Specifications
Appendix B: Documents Used in Corpus Analysis