Educating the Chinese Individual

Life in a Rural Boarding School

Mette Halskov Hansen

  • Published: 2015. Paperback August 2016
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Education; Anthropology
  • Bibliographic information: 240 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

In twenty-first-century China, socialist educational traditions have given way to practices that increasingly emphasize the individual. This volume investigates that trend, drawing on Hansen's fieldwork in a rural high school in Zhejiang where students, teachers, and officials of different generations, genders, and social backgrounds form what is essentially a miniature version of Chinese society. Hansen paints a complex picture of the emerging "neosocialist" educational system and shows how individualization of students both challenges and reinforces state control of society.
Mette Halskov Hansen is professor of China studies at the University of Oslo. She is the author of Lessons in Being Chinese: Minority Education and Ethnic Identity in Southwest China and coeditor of iChina: The Rise of the Individual in Modern Chinese Society.

"An outstanding and original contribution to the anthropology of education and a penetrating and vivid analytical picture of how contemporary Chinese society is changing and why."
-Peter Cave, University of Manchester

"Groundbreaking. . . . Engages in inspiring dialogue with various social theories on the individual-society relationship as well as the cultural construction of the self. . . . A landmark in China studies and the anthropology of the individual."
-Yunxiang Yan, University of California, Los Angeles

"Powerful. . . . [Illuminates] the diverse practices that go into subject formation processes in contemporary China."
-Lisa Hoffman, University of Washington Tacoma


Introduction: Chinese Education and Processes of Individualization

1. Discipline and Agency: Quests for Individual Space
2. Text and Truth: Visions of the Learned Person and Good Citizen
3. Hierarchy and Democracy: Controlled Rise of the Individual
4. Motivation and Examination: The Making and Breaking of the Individual
5. Dreams and Dedications: Teachers' Views and the Construction of a Generation Gap

Conclusion: Authoritarian Individualization

Glossary of Chinese Names and Terms

"Educating the Chinese Individual is an ethnographically rich and stimulating study. It enriches our knowledge about a relatively under-studied group-rural youth and young teachers-in a marginal setting. It challenges some common assumptions of the changing landscape of school education and everyday cultural practice of the younger generations in post-socialist China. . . . This book will attract a wide readership in educational studies but will also appeal to audiences in sociology and anthropology who are interested in social change and youth culture in contemporary China."
-Xuan Dong, China Quarterly, The

"[E]xcellent. . . . [T]his ethnography is a fine depiction of a slice of life in China today. The important issues it handles show the value of having more ethnographies of Chinese secondary schools, including studies of first-tier, vocational, and urban high schools from many parts of the country."
-Andrew B. Kipnis, The China Journal