Class Work
Vocational Schools and China's Urban Youth
T.E. Woronov



This book has been a very long journey, and I can never fully express my tremendous gratitude to the many people who have offered help, support, sustenance, and kindness along the way. First, thank you to my generous funders. The research for this book was made possible by a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, with additional support from the University of Arizona. Subsequent research was made possible by the China Studies Centre and the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney.

I owe my deepest debts to the students, teachers, and administrators at the two vocational schools in Nanjing, who graciously welcomed us into their schools and their lives. I am enormously grateful for their willingness to share their time and experience and their patient efforts to explain China’s complexities to a naïve foreigner. I only hope that this book can begin to do justice to them and to the challenges they face every day. None of this research could have taken place without the institutional support of Hohai University. I am extremely grateful to Professors Chen Ajiang and Shi Guoqing for their support and for making my stay in Nanjing possible. I cannot begin to thank Emma Wang Xubo, without whom the fieldwork never would have happened. I owe all the findings in this book to her help, insight, and friendship, although all the errors, of course, are my own. For their patience, diligence, and amazing fieldwork, thank you to our wonderful research assistants, Chen Tao, Liu Guoxing, Wang Wenting, and Yang Juan. Thanks, too, to colleagues Wang Shufang, Hu Liang, Wang Yijie, Gao Yan, Jin Yihong, and Fan Ke at Hohai, Nanjing, and Nanjing Normal Universities for their warm welcome, intellectual engagement with this project, and continued friendship. I owe a very special debt and the very warmest thanks to my oldest and dearest friends in China, Zhang Liang and Chen Yingfei. Anything I might possibly know today about contemporary Chinese society and culture is due to their patient help and guidance over many, many years. Feichang ganxie.

I am indebted to a host of people who have helped in many ways with this project from its earliest inception to the final stages of the book. Deepest thanks to Marlys Bueber and Michael Phillips for their help, support, and hospitality. Preposterously overdue thanks and gratitude to Laura Burian and Fang Ximin, and Nancy Gordon, Zwia Lipkin, and the incomparable Tian Ying. Long belated thanks to Wang Zheng at the University of Michigan, who was the one of the first supporters of the project and helped make it possible. My gratitude to the many people on several continents who have offered advice, encouragement, a critical eye, and stimulating conversation across many years: Jeremy Beckett, Jean Comaroff, Melinda Cooper, Judith Farquhar, Luis Angosto Ferrández, Martin Gibbs, Yingjie Guo, Mette Halskov Hansen, Neil Maclean, Maurizio Marinelli, Helen McCabe, Norma Mendoza-Denton, Mimi Nichter, Maryann O’Donnell, Barbara Schulte, Gary Sigley, Sonja Van Wichelen, Wang Jun, Souchou Yao, and, of course, the Boys. Special thanks to an anonymous reviewer for Stanford University Press as well as to Chen Shuxia, Cui Fangqi, and Tigger Wise for their research and editorial assistance. Special thanks to Jen Roth-Gordon for her help and encouragement all the way through.

I don’t know where to begin to thank Leticia Veloso, whose intellectual and personal friendship has been invaluable from the start of this project to the finish. Every academic word I’ve written since the University of Chicago has been a product of our long-term collaboration and has benefited from her generosity, kindness, and keen intellect.

Portions of this book are derived, in part, from articles published in the Journal of Contemporary China 21 (77): 779–791, and Comparative Education 49 (2): 242–259. Portions of the Introduction appeared in South Atlantic Quarterly 111 (4): 701–719. Portions of Chapter 2 appeared in The Handbook of Class and Social Stratification in China, edited by Yingjie Guo (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Press) and The China Journal 66: 77–99.

Finally, I was able to get to China in the first place only because of the astonishing help and support of David Woronov, Michon Davies, and especially Chris and Leila Duncan. I am profoundly, deeply grateful. Still.