This is co-sponsored by Rutgers Global-China Office. This is part of Louisa Schein's class, "Anthropology of China." Please contact Professor Schein (
Abstract: “You don’t have to be old and wealthy like Bill Gates or Jack Ma; young people can be philanthropists, too!” This was the original appeal that ‘Ready to Give,’ a Chinese youth-founded philanthropy education organization, used to recruit university students and recent graduates into their “smart giving” summer program in 2016. By 2019, RTG was no longer pushing to expand the definition of philanthropy/cishan, but shifted to a focus on social impact (shehui yingxiangli), and encouraged participants to think of themselves as “changemakers” (translated into the neologism: chuangbianzhe). In fact, the “learning-by-doing” model of the organization, which provides participants with the opportunity to give away $20,000 USD in charitable grants means that young people become “changemakers” through “making change.” This paper examines a particular form of what I call “philanthropic subjectification” that takes place as participants undergo personal transformation, and come to understand themselves as different kinds of social actors. Based on ethnographic data from the practice of “evaluation” at RTG, as well as survey and interview data produced for the organization, I engage the lens of performativity theory, and draw tensions between measuring the subjective experience of personal transformation versus measuring the outcomes of the participants’ actions.
Elizabeth (Lissa) Crane is a doctoral candidate in Cultural Anthropology at Rutgers University. Her dissertation research is focused on the emergence of “new philanthropy” in contemporary China, and she has completed year-long ethnographic dissertation research with two philanthropy training organizations based in Beijing.