The myth of the self-made man in rural China

Event details

PSC Seminar

Date & time

Tuesday 19 June 2018


PSC Reading Room 4.27, Hedley Bull Centre (130), Garran Road, ANU
ANU Canberra


Camille Boullenois


Helen McMartin

Nowhere has economic development been so dramatic than in post-socialist rural China. Liberal economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping’s administration from 1978 onwards progressively established the conditions for increased public and private industrialisation. In a few decades, China has undergone meteoric economic growth, industrialisation and urbanisation, which have profoundly reshaped interpersonal relationships and local distributions of power.
In the popular imagination, the iconic figure of the self-made-man has become an archetype of this dramatic transformation. This myth of the self-made man, and the relationship between the myth and the reality of social mobility and social differentiation, are the topic of my thesis. My research shows how the discourse around social mobility through entrepreneurship has become pervasive in rural inland China. It occupies a central place at the junction between mental perceptions and aspirations, official ideologies and policies, social and economic structures and the strategies and practices of actors at the local level.

About the Speaker
Camille Boullenois is a sociologist and China expert trained at Sciences Po, Oxford, and the ANU. Her research analyses the consequences of social mobility in terms of personal experience, sense of identity and social relationships. Concurrently with academic research, she worked as a contributor and policy analyst for several research institutes, including China Analysis, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and China Policy. She regularly contributes to Oxford Analytica and the Economist Intelligence Unit on projects pertaining to Chinese politics and society.

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