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Is it possible to transcend class domination? A life story study of working-class students at elite universities in China

Jin, Jin; (2018) Is it possible to transcend class domination? A life story study of working-class students at elite universities in China. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis is based on a life story study of 17 working-class students at four elite universities in China – Fudan University, Peking University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Tsinghua University. Data collection was conducted between 2015 and 2017 through three rounds of interviews. Data analysis was informed by constructive grounded theory techniques and sensitised by Bourdieu’s ‘method’ - habitus, capital and field. The research question is to understand how and why my participants become working-class ‘exceptions’ who seem to transcend class domination, at least in part, by achieving academic successes at school and by reaching elite universities against all the odds. While before discussing of the ‘exceptionality’ of my participants, this thesis first offers an ‘adequate theory of habitus’ that demonstrates the ‘normality’ of them being constrained by ‘class’ in forms of capital deficiency and in the operation of working-class habitus. Then this thesis discusses the ways in which the research participants developed reflexive dispositions through their school experience, drew on those reflexive dispositions to overcome constraints of class and succeeded in achieving to be ‘exceptions’. An interacting and synthesising relationship between their habitus and the field of Chinese schooling is highlighted and a new form of symbolic domination of class which is mediated by meritocracy is demonstrated in those discussions. Furthermore, based on analysis of different perspectives the research participants developed to deal with the sense of dislocation they experienced more or less at university, an ‘adequate theory of reflexivity’ is offered in which a diversity of reflexive responses to class domination, different degrees of being subjects to meritocratic discipline and possibilities to transcend class domination are discussed. Conclusions of this thesis deconstruct ‘transcendence’, ‘exceptionality’ and ‘success’- categories that define my research participants and point out the contingency of their ‘exceptionality’ on the possession of more capital.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Is it possible to transcend class domination? A life story study of working-class students at elite universities in China
Event: UCL
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Education, Practice and Society
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10045836
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