Ethical interventions versus capital imaginaries: A class analysis of the overseas schooling choice of the Chinese 'New Rich'

Year: 2012

Author: Wang, Yujia

Type of paper: Refereed paper


The overseas schooling choice as a spatial strategy of capital accumulation has recently attracted scholarly attention (Findlay et al 2012; Ong 1999; Waters 2005, 2006; Brooks and Waters 2011). This paper follows an exploration of the links between geographical mobilities incurred by educational choices, capital accumulation, and class identities by looking at the overseas educational choice of the Chinese 'new rich'. It situates this examination in the schooling choices of Chinese families in both China and Australia, particularly drawing attention to the Chinese students' educational experiences in China, to better understand their overseas educational imperatives and imaginations at the moment of their overseas study decision-making.

Theoretically, it engages with debates of flexible accumulation of cultural capital in geographically transnational mobility (Ong 1999; Waters 2006), cosmopolitan capital (Weenink 2007; 2008), and class-making (Bourdieu 1986; Ball 2003). In these debates, schools are approached as a regime of capital where students can be possibly inculcated in certain cultural traits and accumulate targeted forms of cultural capital that constitutes their class-to-be identities. The paper seeks to contribute to this academic endeavour by focusing on the overseas educational choice-making of Chinese international students and their families. It is also a break that sees schools as an ethical regime. Drawing on the notion of ethical problematization in the situated global assemblages (Ong and Collier 2005), it is an attempt to explore the ethical rationalities associated with overseas school choices.

It is revealed in this empirical research that ethical rationalities centring round 'how one should live' and neoliberal rationalities of capital imaginaries are mediated paralleled or single-handedly in the construction of the Chinese new rich's overseas study imperatives. By bringing attention to their ethical rationalities and emotional landscapes, this paper argues that ethical rationalities cannot be neglected as motivations and a valence of reasoning in the school choice making by an over-emphasis on a neoliberal logic embedded in a classed strategy.