Month: March 2021

DKU, Yale-NUS Bridge Seminar

Presentation date& time: April 23 (Friday) 11:00-12:00 Beijing Time via Zoom

  • 11:00-11:05am Opening Introduction

Katherine Robertson (Director, Faculty Affairs, Duke Kunshan University)

Terry NARDIN (Acting Director, Division of Social Sciences, Yale-NUS College)

  • 11:05-11:45am Presentation
  • 11:45-12:00pm Q&A

Title: Fateful Rite of Passage: The National College Entrance Exam and the Myth of Meritocracy in China

Every year some ten million high-school seniors take the National College Entrance Examination in China. For many, the exam, known as the Gaokao, represents the best opportunity to “change fate” (gaibian mingyun) by achieving social mobility. In a society dominated by social connections or guanxi, the Gaokao is widely seen as the “only relatively fair social competition.” But skyrocketing social inequality has produced wide chasms in exam scores and outcomes between different regions and socioeconomic groups. Why do people nevertheless allow themselves to be recruited into the ideology and social practice of exam-based meritocracy? I argue that the Gaokao is a fateful rite of passage: an event that is both consequential (creating or destroying value) and chancy (of undetermined outcome). Fateful events like the Gaokao form trials of merit in which people strive to personify high cultural virtues, which in China include diligence, grit, composure, filial piety (xiao), quality (suzhi), and divine favor or luck. Focusing on this moral dimension of examinations, I compare the Gaokao with China’s imperial-era civil exams (960-1904 CE) and with standardized tests in other countries.

Dr. Zachary Howlett is Assistant Professor of Social Sciences at Yale-NUS College at the National University of Singapore. He is a sociocultural anthropologist who researches education, mobility, and marriage in China. He is the author of Meritocracy and Its Discontents: Anxiety and the National College Entrance Exam in China (Cornell University Press, 2021).

Junior Faculty Research Seminar Series-06

Xin ZHANG, Assistant Professor of Chinese Language and Intercultural Communication is scheduled to give a seminar in March (see below). Please email if you want to get the Zoom link.

Presentation date& time: March 25 (Thursday) 20:00-21:00 Beijing Time via Zoom
• 30mins presentation
• 30mins Q&A

A research concept

Title: Negotiating a Multilingual Self through Chinese as a Second Language: Foreign Professionals in Modern Chinese Workplace

Being able to function in a Chinese workplace is what many learners of Chinese as a Second Language (CSL) report as their long-term motivation and the ultimate goal of learning Chinese language and culture. Yet few empirical studies have investigated CSL learners at the most sophisticated level to understand what leads to and constitutes their multilingual experience and identity co-construction as a foreign professional in modern Chinese workplace. The project examines foreign professionals (including academians) with advanced Chinese skills working in a multilingual environment in China where being able to use Mandarin is integral to the subjects’ professional standing and performance. Engaging the current debate over a “multilingual/multicultural turn” in fields concerning language learning and development as well as intercultural engagement, this project adopts, and contributes to the theorization of, Third-Space personae as a key analytical notion in understanding the negotiated and co-constructed nature of selfhood/identity in multilingual and intercultural interactions.

This paper focuses on the ways race and native-speakerness as well as their ideological manifestation in a Chinese context interfere with selfhood/identity negotiation of heritage and non-heritage (white) CSL speakers. We examine if and how Third-Space personae mediate the racialized expectations of these foreign professionals in multilingual Chinese workplaces.



Junior Faculty Research Seminar Series-05

Gergely Horvath, Assistant Professor of Economics is scheduled to give a seminar to introduce his research concept in March (see below). Please email if you want to get the Zoom link.

Presentation date& time: March 12 (Friday) 9:30-10:30 am Beijing Time via Zoom
• 30mins presentation
• 30mins Q&A

A research concept

Title: Alleviating behavioral biases at job search: Do nudges work?
In an online experiment, we study the effectiveness of policy interventions in reducing the impact of behavioral biases on the job search. Due to the present bias, individuals set a lower search effort and a lower reservation wage than the optimal values, while the sunk-cost fallacy makes individuals reduce their reservation wage over the search spell. We compare the effects of search cost reduction and nudging on alleviating these biases. We find that search cost reduction increases the investment in the search effort and the individual welfare but not the reservation wage. Conversely, nudging increases the reservation wage, but not the investment in search effort or individual welfare. Furthermore, we show that both search cost reduction and nudging are effective in alleviating the impact of sunk-cost fallacy on the choice of the reservation wage. Our results suggest that behavioral interventions should be part of active labor market policies.

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