Orna Naftali is Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Department of Asian Studies. Her research focuses on childhood, youth, and education; gender and the family; science and subjectivity; national identity, militarism, and the nation-state in modern and contemporary China. 

Dr. Naftali obtained a BA in East Asian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; an MA in Culture Research at Tel Aviv University; and a PhD in Cultural Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). She has published extensively on issues such as the globalization of Chinese education; nationalism and militarism in PRC schools and popular culture; the emergence of new conceptualizations of 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 also the focus of her first book, Children, Rights, and Modernity in China: Raising Self-Governing Citizens (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Dr. Naftali's second book, Children in China (China Today series, Polity Press, 2016), provides an extensive overview of the momentous changes that have taken place in the lives of both 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 Chinese children as independent consumers in the new market economy.

Her current research explores the interface between education, militarization, national identity, and new class formations in China. A recently completed project, "Education and the Formation of National Identity in China: The Effects of Schooling and ‘Patriotic Education’ on Youth of Different Socioeconomic Backgrounds” (sponsored by the ISF and the Harry S. Truman Research Insitute for the Advancement of Peace, 2012-2016), examined the effects of schooling, the Chinese government's 'patriotic education' campaign, and consumption of foreign popular culture products on the attitudes of urban and rural Han-Chinese youths of various class backgrounds toward their nation-state and foreign 'Others'.

Dr. Naftali is currently engaged in a new ethnographic project on War and the Military in Contemporary Chinese Education: The Effects of Schooling and the 'Patriotic Education' Campaign on the Attitudes of Middle-School Students toward Armed Conflict (supported by a Spencer Foundation Small Grant, 2016-2019). In addition, she is working on a historical study on constructions of gender, war, and political violence in PRC children and youth culture and education (1949-present).

Dr. Naftali welcomes enquiries from prospective MA and doctoral students interested in topics including:

  • Anthropology of contemporary China
  • Children, childhood and youth in the PRC (1949 to present)
  • Schooling and education in the PRC (1949 to present)
  • Anthropology of gender and the family in the PRC (1949 to present)
  • Popular nationalism in contemporary China
  • State-society relations in contemporary China