Culture As the Parenting Toolkit: Class and Globalization in East Asian Families

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: 419
Oral Presentation
Yi-Ping Eva SHIH , Fu Jen Catholic University, New Taipei City, Taiwan
By using ethnographic documents in Taiwan, this paper aims to examine how three different formats of local and global cultural capital are constructed and distributed unequally between the middle and working class families, particularly via their management of afterschool activities for elementary school children. I use interviews with family members (N=72) to examine how parents’ cultural capital is transmitted through the popular routines of Taiwanese children: the afterschool activities, such as piano playing, English lessons, or math lessons, or through the fabric of their family life. Lareau and P. DiMaggio both employed Bourdieu’s “distinction” approach to childhood inequality: the former derives from Melvin Kohn’s theory on child-rearing values and treats art participation as part of the middle class “concerted cultivation” pattern; while the latter pinpoints children’s art activities as a form of status culture participation. In this paper I imply culture without national boundaries and present the Taiwanese case to show how global/western culture are adopted and embedded in contemporary Asian parenting, which interplays with the local structure of class reproduction. I find three fields of child-rearing: Educational achievement, talent development and the western cultural capital. These fields are closely related to parental class position in a univore-omnivore spectrum. All families emphasized core-value on academic success; the middle class and upper class families focused on talent development; and the upper class families emphasized “being international.” This paper further reveals that, in East Asian societies, the local families are adopting western culture in their child-rearing, which further generates “western cultural capital”, a rising field of distinction for upper class children in East Asia. With lowest fertility rate in the world at 2009, Taiwan is a unique case to understand class variation of child-rearing.