Moral Development from a Shanghai Preschool to a Taiwanese Village

Flyer for Moral Development from a Shanghai Preschool to a Taiwanese Village, a talk by Dr. Jing Xu.

April 21, 2022, 7-8:30 pm PT on Zoom

How do we become moral persons in specific historical-cultural contexts? How does social environment and psychological mechanisms together shape children’s earliest moral experience? This talk presents a story of moral development across time and space, based on ethnographic fieldwork in two projects, from early 2010s Shanghai to mid-20th century rural Taiwan. In a Shanghai preschool, I examine young children’s sharing behavior as part of a larger educational project for cultivating “the good child,” a project that is both grounded in historical foundations of moral cultivation and shaped by new educational anxieties in China. Through analyzing historical fieldnotes collected in a Taiwanese village, an iconic landmark in the map of sinological anthropologists, I turn to the issue of children’s fighting and bring a new angle to understand the so-called “traditional Chinese family.” Combining these two projects, the talk demonstrates the gaps between ideology and reality in education and childrearing, and shed light on the effects and limitations of socialization beliefs and methods in shaping children’s moral world. With the focus on “minds in culture,” my research also aims to facilitate interdisciplinary conversations between anthropology, psychology and data science.

Jing Xu is an affiliate assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington and a NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. Through the particular lens of children’s moral development, her work examines education, family, and morality in contemporary China, martial law-era Taiwan and cross-cultural comparative contexts. She adopts an interdisciplinary approach that puts anthropological and psychological theories in conversation, combines ethnography, experimental and computational methods, and draws from the broad field of Chinese Studies. She holds a B.A. and M.A. from Tsinghua University, China, a Ph.D. in anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis, and received postdoctoral training in psychology at the University of Washington. She is the author of The Good Child: Moral Development in a Chinese Preschool (Stanford University Press, 2017). She has published articles in journals spanning multiple disciplines (both English and Chinese), such as American Anthropologist, Developmental Psychology, Journal of Chinese History, Ethos, China Review International, Cross-Currents: East Asia History and Culture Review, PLoS One, and Sociological Review of China.

This event will be held on Zoom. Please register here.