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Navigating the Aspirational City

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

Spotlight on China, Volume: 006
Buy now from Brill-Sense Publishers.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Buy now from Brill-Sense Publishers.

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The following is Inadequately subtle in terms of analysis, but does give a brief and useful description of the gaokao and the anxiety surrounding it. The point made about transparency of results is an important one. In my own research, parents were very much attached to the relative objectivity and trustworthiness of the exam and equally suspicious of alternative systems to replace it. Better the devil you know.

Read this short but descriptively accurate article here:  The gaokao – The test where time stands still – University World News.

via The gaokao – The test where time stands still – University World News.

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Wu Ping (吴平), vice president of Zhejiang University, was killed in an automobile accident in the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province last Thursday, June 12.  China Radio International (CRI) didn’t give details of the accident in its news report published on the same day, but one day later, China Dailydescribed surveillance footage from the scene of the accident, Hangzhou Western Beltway, according to which, Wu almost missed the exit where he wanted to leave the beltway and head to the university. 

The footage, published on websites like sina.com, suggests that Wu Ping cut into a truck’s safety zone, long after the opportunity to leave the highway in accordance with the traffic regulations had passed.

China Daily quoted a colleague of Wu as saying that lack of sleep could be the cause of the accident – he was a diligent man who often worked very…

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Hogwarts of Asia: New Campus in China Channels Harry Potter – WSJ.

via Hogwarts of Asia: New Campus in China Channels Harry Potter – WSJ.

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Stunning Photos Of Chinas Insanely Stressful College Exam Process | Business Insider.

via Stunning Photos Of Chinas Insanely Stressful College Exam Process | Business Insider.

I use the word “rural” with reservations here, as what is rural in China would hardly be recognized as such in many other places. At any rate, I offer this (very) short video as a supplement to a photo essay on School Courtyard Pedagogy I posted here some time ago. This video was shot in Summer 2013. By the way, before going off on conformity, have a close look at the fine-grained chaos at about the 13s mark. Try supervising that, teacher!

Enjoy.

In a compelling essay on China’s urbanization project, Hyun Bang Shin argues, in part, that

China’s speculative urbanisation is both an ideological and a political project that disrupts and destroys the lives of the masses, while it is the few that benefits from it (Strategising Discontents, para. 1).

I don’t disagree with the notion that this project is both ideological and political. I also buy without reservation “disrupts.” But I wonder if the word “destroy” does justice to the ideological and political in the sense that it forgets the constructive moment of this project.

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Hebei Domicide

 

One of the things that may make the claiming of the city from below difficult is the impact of urbanization as a pedagogical project on those being disrupted. As I’ve discussed in previous posts (briefly) and in my recently completed dissertation (at length), they, like the city’s neighborhoods themselves, are not only being destroyed. They are also being built into something entirely new. Of course I have now gone a step too far with “entirely.” Is there something in the remains of the city and the old socialist man — some resource of critique and/or solidarity — to be drawn upon such that the right to the city might be won? If I’m not mistaken, this question lies at the centre of Shin’s essay. I suggest you have a look yourself if interested in the answer.

Contesting speculative urbanisation and strategising discontents.

via Contesting speculative urbanisation and strategising discontents.

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