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Seminar: Work unit housing compounds, social connection and dis-connection in urban China under Mao

By Professor Danching Ruan, Hong Kong Baptist University

Thu 1 Mar 2018
4:00 - 5:15 pm


Rm 422, 4/F Sino Building, CUHK

In the first three decades under Communist rule (1949-1978), the Chinese government made great efforts to bring social equality to China, and in many aspects, such as housing, income, and medical care in urban China, they were quite successful. However, this picture has an unequal side. This paper addresses the issue of social connection and disconnection within the urban population in Mao’s China. Specifically, it studies the role of work unit housing compounds in facilitating social networking within the elite population, while creating social segregation between the elite and non-elite populations. In short, this is a study of inequality in social capital, which is greatly facilitated by a quite unique institutional arrangement, the work unit system.

The research site for the current study is Beijing. The data comes from in-depth interviews with people who grew up in Beijing between 1949 and 1978, and whose parents were administrative or professional elites. In recent years, many children of the elites have written memoirs about growing up in Beijing in Mao’s era, with some of these writings being published as articles or books and some posted on-line. This is another source of data for the current study.

Danching Ruan is Professor of Sociology at Hong Kong Baptist University. Her main research interests are in the fields of social network analysis, social stratification, and social inequality. In recent years, she has also worked on historical case studies of the early period of China’s economic reform and has published with Oxford University Press and Joint Publishing. Her writings have also been published in Social Forces, Social Networks, The China Journal, International Migration Review, American Behavioral Scientist, Social Sciences in China, L’Année Sociologique, among others.

This seminar is part of the HKU-CUHK joint sociological forum series.

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