Culture, Power and the Social Construction of Morality: moral voices of Chinese students

Journal of Moral Education 25 (2):141-157 (1996)
Abstract
Abstract This study challenges Carol Gilligan's gendered interpretation of moral voice by examining the ways in which moral problems and responses were socially constructed in the contexts of power relations based not on gender, but culture. In?depth interviews were conducted with 30 mainland Chinese men and women studying in the United States regarding their lived experiences of moral conflict and choice. Out of these interviews, the problem of power emerged as a central moral concern in Chinese students? relationships with Americans. These relationships were characterised by a dilemma of voice: the tension between an ethical imperative to keep silent to preserve vital yet hurtful power relations, and the moral need to speak out in defence of one's dignity and integrity. Students? responses to this dilemma varied with the nature of the power relationship itself: enjoining students to endure silently those abusive relationships which they felt powerless to change or exit, to abandon those which they could afford to leave, and to protest against those which they felt capable of challenging or even transforming. These findings underscore the situational nature of moral conflict and suggest that it is power??whether rooted in gender or culture??which is the critical dimension of human relationships for the interpretation of moral voice
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