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Making and remaking the youthful Chinese self in an Australian school: the complex logics of culture, class and ethics

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posted on 23.02.2017, 01:43 authored by Wang, Yujia
This study investigates how young people with various types of links to China grapple with the imperatives of their life-world to craft their selves. It examines the cultural practices and delves into the rationalities behind them to understand the schooling-dominated lives of a group of 15-18 years old youth of Chinese background. These are grouped under two social categories; first, Australian-born students of Chinese ancestry and second, Chinese-born international students, who study in the same high-fee, independent Australian school. Positioned within the field of the cultural sociology of education, this research engages debates about youthful identities against the backdrop of transnational mobilities, flows and global assemblages of contemporary domains of living. It addresses youthful self-making in the transcultural context by attending to the interrelationship between schooling, cultural practices, social class, ethical imperatives and geography. There is a considerable body of literature on how young people make meanings of their lives in transcultural contexts in Anglophone countries. This usually focuses on ethnic/immigrant background youth and, more recently, international students. However, there is a tendency in this literature to slip into methodological nationalism and methodological Westernism. My study offers a critique of such practices and develops a set of theoretical tools to help advance studies of contemporary youth who do not fit neatly in nation state and Western/non-Western categories. Little is known about how Chinese-born school students and Australian-born students of Chinese background engage in their projects of self-making in culturally different and similar ways. What is the influence on their projects of self-making of global and national forces? How do the school, the family and the students themselves mediate between these global and national forces? To respond to these questions, I offer an analysis of how the students relate their education, schooling choices and everyday cultural practices to their projects of self-making and their cultural moorings. To explore these matters, I bring Aihwa Ong’s concepts from cultural anthropology into the cultural sociology of education. Specifically, I build on Ong’s notion of the cultural logics of self-making and her culture/power/self formula, through the concepts geography of forces and the self/geography nexus. In so doing, I delineate the forces at work in processes of globalization and transnationality as well as the forces of the nation state, and explore how they are mediated and translated into Chinese background youth’s rationalities and imperatives of self crafting. This study investigates how young people with various types of links to China grapple with the imperatives of their life-world to craft their selves. It examines the cultural practices and delves into the rationalities behind them to understand the schooling-dominated lives of a group of 15-18 years old youth of Chinese background. These are grouped under two social categories; first, Australian-born students of Chinese ancestry and second, Chinese-born international students, who study in the same high-fee, independent Australian school. Positioned within the field of the cultural sociology of education, this research engages debates about youthful identities against the backdrop of transnational mobilities, flows and global assemblages of contemporary domains of living. It addresses youthful self-making in the transcultural context by attending to the interrelationship between schooling, cultural practices, social class, ethical imperatives and geography. There is a considerable body of literature on how young people make meanings of their lives in transcultural contexts in Anglophone countries. This usually focuses on ethnic/immigrant background youth and, more recently, international students. However, there is a tendency in this literature to slip into methodological nationalism and methodological Westernism. My study offers a critique of such practices and develops a set of theoretical tools to help advance studies of contemporary youth who do not fit neatly in nation state and Western/non-Western categories. Little is known about how Chinese-born school students and Australian-born students of Chinese background engage in their projects of self-making in culturally different and similar ways. What is the influence on their projects of self-making of global and national forces? How do the school, the family and the students themselves mediate between these global and national forces? To respond to these questions, I offer an analysis of how the students relate their education, schooling choices and everyday cultural practices to their projects of self-making and their cultural moorings. To explore these matters, I bring Aihwa Ong’s concepts from cultural anthropology into the cultural sociology of education. Specifically, I build on Ong’s notion of the cultural logics of self-making and her culture/power/self formula, through the concepts geography of forces and the self/geography nexus. In so doing, I delineate the forces at work in processes of globalization and transnationality as well as the forces of the nation state, and explore how they are mediated and translated into Chinese background youth’s rationalities and imperatives of self crafting. I have identified two major strands among the cultural logics of self-making that these young people employ. A majority of Chinese international students engage with what I term the cultural logics of instrumental transnationalism in their pursuit of overseas education. They take advantage of transnational mobilities, but they see their future in China. As a contrast, their Australian-born counterparts deploy the cultural logics of localization or rooting, by consolidating their projects of self-making in Australia. They rework their ethnic background with rooting imperatives in mind. I, therefore, argue that despite the global and transnational forces in their lives, these Chinese-born and Australian-born students’ projects of self-making are still tied to a specific geography. The nation-state still reigns. Theoretically, I seek to contribute to analyses of contemporary social class by drawing out three nexuses, namely, the class/transnationality nexus, the class/ethnicity/transnational emplacement nexus and the class/ethics nexus. Further, in exploring the students’ construction of a good/ethical life in transcultural contexts against the processes of globalization and transnationality, this study contributes to theorizations of youthful self-making.

History

Campus location

Australia

Principal supervisor

Jane Kenway

Year of Award

2014

Department, School or Centre

Monash University. Faculty of Education. Education

Course

Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type

DOCTORATE

Faculty

Faculty of Education