A study of the Zhiqing identity

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Wu, Weiyi
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University College Cork
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More than seventeen million Chinese urban youth (Zhiqing in Chinese) went to the countryside, lived and engaged in agricultural work there during the Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside (UMDC) Movement (1967-1981). Although this movement was officially terminated in 1981, it has left an imprint on these people – the Zhiqing identity by which they are still characterized as a unique group in Chinese society and a special generation in Chinese history. Historical and sociological perspectives are combined in this study. By applying Glen H. Elder’s life course approach, the study reveals how Zhiqing’s life trajectories are embedded in the social history and identifies a series of interrelated factors that made Zhiqing into a unique generation. With the guidance of Henri Tajfel’s social identity theory, the study uncovers the emergence of the Zhiqing group and the Zhiqing identity, explains individuals’ acquisitions of the Zhiqing identity and analyzes how it has kept influencing individuals’ lives during and after the UMDC Movement. Using Zhiqing’s life stories allowed the researcher to combine the historical and sociological aspects in her examination of Zhiqing’s identity issues. In each life story, the narrator reviewed his/her life experience, reflected on socio-historical changes and expressed his/her emotions and ideas about identity issues. Utilizing methods of in-depth interview and thematic analysis, the researcher completed the study and presents this thesis as one interpretation on the Zhiqing identity, which, as according the researcher’s hermeneutic stance, is open to further discussion and future research.
Zhiqing , Educated youth , Up to the mountains down to the countryside movement , Life course , Social identity
Wu, W. 2013. A study of the Zhiqing identity. DSocSc Thesis, University College Cork.
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