Dr. Orna Naftali

Chair of the Department of Asian Studies

Research interests: Anthropology of modern and contemporary China, with a focus on children, youth, and education; women, gender, and the family; science and subjectivity; national identity, militarism, and the nation-state; globalization and the rise of the new middle classes in contemporary China.

I completed a BA in East Asian Studies with a China emphasis (The Hebrew University); an MA in Culture Research (Tel Aviv University); and an MA and a PhD in Anthropology (University of California, Santa Barbara [UCSB]). My work concerns a range of topics relating to children, youth and education in China, including: the globalization of Chinese education; the interplay between changes in notions and practices of childrearing and education and the emergence of new conceptualizations of play, privacy and subjectivity in China; the rise of child psychology in contemporary urban China; and the development of a new Chinese discourse on children's rights and children's citizenship, a topic which was the focus of my first book, Children, Rights, and Modernity in China: Raising Self-Governing Citizens (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). 

My latest book, Children in China (2016, China Today series, Polity Press), provides an overview of the dramatic changes that have taken place in the lives of rural and urban Chinese children since the launch of economic reforms in 1978. Covering schooling, consumption, identity formation processes, family and peer relations among other aspects of children’s lives, the book explores the rise of new ideas of child-care, child-vulnerability and child-agency; the impact of the One-Child Policy; and the emergence of children as independent consumers in the new market economy.  It also demonstrates how economic restructuring and the recent waves of rural–urban migration have produced starkly unequal conditions for children’s education and welfare both in the countryside and in the cities.

My current research projects include:

  1. An ethnographic field-project on "Education and the Formation of National Identity in China: The Effects of Schooling and 'Patriotic Education' on Youths of Different Socioeconomic Background" (sponsored by the Truman Institute and an Israel Science Foundation Grant No. 405/12). The project, which is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Yang Junhong of the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, examines the effects of schooling, the Chinese government's 'patriotic education' campaign, and popular culture consumption on the views of urban and rural youths of various class backgrounds in contemporary China. 
  1. A study of historical and contemporary constructions of war and military violence in PRC cultural products for children and youth (1949-present).
  2. A study of the representation of war and the military in PRC school textbooks (1949-present). 
  3. A multi-disciplinary research project on global cities and the rise of the new middle classes in East and Southeast Asia

Selected publications:

  1. 2016. Children in China (China Today Series). Cambridge, UK: Polity Press
  2. 2014. Children, Rights, and Modernity in China: Raising Self-Governing Citizens (Studies in Childhood and Youth). Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan
  3. 2014. “Chinese Childhood in Conflict: Children, Gender, and Violence in China of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ Period (1966-76)”. Oriens Extremus 53: 85-110
  4. 2014. “The Work of Rights Lawyers in the PRC: Hopeless Endeavor or Important Contribution to the Construction of a Chinese Civil Society?” Ma’asei-Mishpat 6: 97-104 [Invited article, in Hebrew]
  5. 2014. “Marketing War and the Military to Children and Youth in China: Little Red Soldiers in the Digital Age.” China Information: A Journal on Contemporary China Studies 28 (1) (March): 3-25
  6. 2010. “Recovering Childhood: Play, Pedagogy, and the Rise of Psychological Knowledge in Contemporary Urban China.” Modern China 36(6): 589-616
  7. 2010. “Caged Golden Canaries: Childhood, Privacy, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Urban China.” Childhood: A Journal of Global Child Research 17 (3): 297-311
  8. 2009. “Empowering the Child: Children’s Rights, Citizenship, and the State in Contemporary China.” The China Journal 61 (Jan. 2009): 79-104
  9. 2008. “Treating Students as Subjects: Globalization, Childhood, and Education in Contemporary China,” pp. 251-74 in The Production of Educational Knowledge in the Global Era, Julia Resnik, ed. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers

Teaching, Mentoring, and other activities:

At the Department of Asian Studies, I teach an introductory BA course on Contemporary Chinese Society and Politics; BA seminars on Gender and Sexuality in the PRC; the Family in Modern China; Nation and Nationalism in Modern China; and Education and Politics in the PRC. I also teach MA seminars on State and Society in Modern China; Constructions of Modernity in Contemporary China: An anthropological Perspective; Research Methods of Modern Chinese Society and Politics; and Global Cities and the New Middle Classes in East Asia (with Dr. Nissim Otmazgin).

In addition, I serve as an MA and PhD advisor, and am also in charge of the "China Studies High-School Project", an out-reach program which seeks to expose Israeli high-school students to topics in Chinese history, geography, society, culture, and language, through lectures and hands-on activities led by volunteer students at the Department of Asian Studies.