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Title: Bridging spatial and social mobility : a phenomenology of Chinese sojourners in the periphery
Authors: Hao, Fei
Degree: Ph.D.
Issue Date: 2019
Abstract: "In ordinary usage, place means primarily two things: one's position in society and spatial location." (Tuan, 1979b, p. 408). The spatial and social location anchors an individual's rudimentary position in the world. Accordingly, the spatial and social mobility record the basic life trajectory within one's life. However, the two interwoven concepts - spatial mobility and social mobility-- are split into different disciplines and the linkage between spatial and social mobility has rarely been explored. While studies of spatial mobility that focus on the movement or travel of individual from one place to another lie in the scope of geography (Urry, 2007), studies of social mobility that emphasize the movement of individuals, families, or groups through a system of social hierarchy or stratification is broadly discussed in sociology (Mägi et al., 2016). In contemporary China, conflicting spatial and social mobility caused many youth issues. On one hand, the increasing spatial mobility caused the megacities polarization. Millions of educated youth with great social, cultural and economic capital concentrated in megacities from different parts of China to chase a better quality of life. While on the other hand, as a result of class solidification, there are decreasing opportunities for educated mobile youth to obtain upward social mobility. As a consequence, many youth issues raised, such as social inequality and social exclusion, Chinese puzzle --falling happiness in a rising economy (Brockmann et al., 2009), and marginalization of educated youth in the megacities. These youth issues are not only detrimental to the SWB of youths but also pose a threat to social equity and harmony. Dali city, the largest sojourner gathering place in China, is chosen as the research area. Built on the new mobilities paradigm, this research redefines sojourn (旅居) as a collection of inter-mingled and inner-heterogeneous forms of mobility that anchored in the mobility spectrum between tourism and migration. Accordingly, sojourners (旅居者) are defined as individuals who involve in a voluntary semi-permanent stay for a better quality of life outside of the traditional socio-geographical milieu. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) is adopted as the primary research methodology to interpret Dali sojourners' meaning-making of their spatial and social mobility experience through the lens of contemporary Chineseness (中華文化): Confucianism, communism, and consumerism. In respond to megacities polarization, social exclusion, and class solidification, thousands of youthful urban immigrants flee from megacities and relocated in Dali based on balanced considerations of the natural, socio-cultural, and economic environment. The trajectories of the educated mobile youth include two stages: in their end of teen-age and early 20s, they moved from different parts of China to megacities for better education and occupation; After around five years' drifting in the megacities, they relocated in Dali - A below four-tier village - for a better quality of life.
The interaction between spatial and social mobility is examined in the context of tourism. On one hand, previous social mobility facilities spatial mobility. It is explained by the elevator effect: previous upward social mobility leads to the accumulation of economic, social and cultural capital, thereby facilities their relocation in Dali. While on the other hand, spatial mobility also helps the construction of social mobility. A split can be found in sojourners' objective and subjective social mobility. In most of the cases, sojourners experienced downward objective social mobility as a consequence of changes in resources and opportunities. However, sojourners are predominantly perceived as their mobile experience as an upward one. It results from changes in the social construction of dimensions. Dali sojourners constructed an enclave parallel with the Dali local society, where sojourners constructed their own social rules, social dimensions, and social structure. This enclave is characterized by high mobility, anonymous social atmosphere, diverse cultural composition, fragmented cultural power, and limited interest exchange. Quanzi (圈子) is the basic unit of socialization and the building brick of sojourner society. Countless Quanzis atomize the sojourner society into fragments, thus contribute to the de-hierarchical social structure and social equity. Pragmatism mainstream dimensions are deconstructed, while the more diversified-formed, humane-driven, and individual-focused dimensions are reconstructed by sojourner society. Five neo-features of social mobility have been identified: the downward objective social mobility is out of sojourners' voluntary choice; there is a discrepancy between the objective and subjective social mobility; the subjective social mobility involves a deconstruction and reconstruction process; changes in social dimensions are caused by changes in value, moral, mindset, lifestyle, thereby the changes will transcend time and space; regardless of the range, speed, direction of social mobility and individual characteristics, all the social mobility is associated with improved SWB. The meaning-making of Dali sojourners' spatial and social mobility experience reflected upon socio-cultural framework of Chineseness: the castle society that enhanced by class solidification and social exclusion, the cracked sky-ladder for educated youths, the "China Puzzle" that comprised of anxious middle-class and satisfied loser, the anti-individualistic Confucianism syndrome, the monochrome life, the supreme stability, the cheap freedom, the materialism obsession, and the early-dead youth. Social mobility is not necessarily the reason for spatial mobility. Instead of seeking upward social mobility, their main motivation lies in a request for a life of tranquillity and dignity, a society of equality and humanity, and the possibility of diversity.
Subjects: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Social mobility -- China
Migration, Internal -- China
Chinese -- Migrations
Emigration and immigration -- Social aspects
Pages: v, 338 pages : color illustrations
Appears in Collections:Thesis

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