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Citizenship as social representations: forging political mindedness in rural China

Zhao, Mi (2015) Citizenship as social representations: forging political mindedness in rural China. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis investigates social representations of citizenship in rural China. The research combines socio-cultural and political psychology to explore the transmission and appropriation of a culturally distant concept. It is assumed that knowledge transmission is contingent on communities' levels of openness and closure to the outside world, dependent on social identity and influenced by the local cultural discourses. The thesis expands the socio-cultural psychology of knowledge encounters through a model that integrates social identity and cultural discourses on the social representational process. The research consisted of a comparative field design, combining qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Using multistage sampling, semi-structured interviews and a questionnaire were conducted in five different villages in Wenzhou, China, each situated in a different position of the openness/closure continuum. Purposive sampling was used to select sites and quota sampling was used to select participants. It was found that social representations of citizenship centre on a dyad of political rights and individual rights and interests. Communities' levels of openness/closure influence people's normative evaluations of citizenship: democratic virtues are less valued in closed communities. Village leadership was found to affect people's knowledge and practice of citizenship. Identification with the shared civic identity led ordinary villagers and leaders to converge in normative evaluations. Cognitive polyphasia was found in local cultural discourses, which channel people's normative judgements and affect the representational process. Citizenship as social representations awaken people's political mind and as embodied cognition drives citizenship phenomena. While no formal knowledge of citizenship was found, rural residents regularly exercise civic rights and duties. The impact of external influence on social representations of citizenship suggests that in time modernisation will minimise regional differences. The thesis concludes that the political landscape in rural China is changing and civic education remains a pressing political issue for the people and government of China.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Mi Zhao
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Psychological and Behavioural Science
Supervisor: Jovchelovitch, Sandra

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