Yi-Lin Chiang

Jul 11, 2023

Study Gods

How the New Chinese Elite Prepare for Global Competition

Princeton University Press 2022

We understand very little about how elite individuals and families operate in everyday life to maintain their privileged statuses, as many of these status-maintaining activities are conducted out of the sight of the public, in private family settings, exclusive schools, and through privileged services. 

Yi-Lin Chiang’s new book, Study Gods: How the New Chinese Elite Prepare for Global Competition (Princeton University Press, 2022), offers a rare look into this issue in the context of contemporary China. Based on solid, long-term ethnographic research, Study Gods documents the educational journeys of elite Chinese adolescents, some of whom were named “study gods” by their peers because of their effortless abilities to achieve high academic performance. Employing vivid descriptions and sophisticated analyses, Chiang has shown how these young people achieve and maintain elite status by absorbing and complying with the rules surrounding status.

In this episode, I talked with Yi-Lin Chiang about her new book, Studying Gods. You will hear not only her fascinating findings about the young generation of Chinese elite, but also behind-the-scene stories and reflections from a seasoned ethnographer, from how she interacted with these elite youths to what differs the younger generation of Chinese elites from the older ones, and why she thinks it is important to understand their elite world.

Yi-Lin Chiang is assistant professor of sociology at National Chengchi University in Taiwan. Chiang’s research focuses on educational stratification and intergenerational status transmission in greater China.

About the host: Pengfei Zhao is a critical researcher and qualitative research methodologist based at the University of Florida. She is currently working on a book manuscript studying the coming-of-age experience of rural Chinese youth during and right after the Cultural Revolution.

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Pengfei Zhao

Pengfei Zhao is a critical researcher and qualitative research methodologist based at McGill University.
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