James Johnston is a specialist in the anthropology of China. He has conducted long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Anhui province, where he researched the experiences and attitudes of parents and school children living in a mountain village and of students at a local teacher training college. His PhD thesis considers the links made between place, education and kinship morality by villagers as they compare their own lives and opportunities with those of China’s urban residents. His research describes how these rural families place great emphasis on the importance of education, considering success at school as a means for children to move to the cities and escape the hardships of agriculture. Yet, migrating to the cities also means leaving one’s parents behind, and the thesis examines the practical and moral challenges that arise from the contradictory demands placed on children, who are expected both to succeed in education yet also to be available to care for parents remaining in the village.
Prior to beginning his PhD research, James completed a BA in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, an MA in the Anthropology of Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and an MSc programme in anthropological research methods at the London School of Economics.
James is currently developing a research project into family relations in Jiangsu province and is contributing to a comparative project examining how perceptions of place impact on choices about migration during economic recession.