My News


My interview with the National Committee on US-China Relations on civic engagement in the COVID-19 crisis.

Upcoming Invited Talks

February 28, 2020. University of Georgia, Sociology

(Cancelled) April 20, 2020. Cornell University, East Asian Studies

September 15, 2020. University of California, Berkeley. Sociology.

Book Contract

I just signed a contract with Polity Press to write and publish my third book, provisionally titled The Culture of Democracy: A Sociological Approach to Civil Society. The book will be published as part of Polity’s acclaimed Cultural Sociology series. It will provide a theoretical introduction to and discussion of the cultural sociology of civil society and takes a global perspective to discuss some pressing issues such as civility, authoritarianism, and populism. The book will serve as a theoretical foundation for my research agenda in next ten years. It will be finished in 2021.

Upcoming Invited Talks

April 2020. Cornell

March. 2020. University of Georgia

October 8, 2019. University of Texas, Austin

October 22, 2019. Harvard

October 23, 2019. Yale

Tenure and Promotion

On May 15, 2019, I was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in the Department of Sociology at Emory. Thrilled and proud to be part of this wonderful community! Many thanks to my family, colleagues, mentors, and friends, for your support and love!

New Article

Pleased to announce that my paper (co-authored with Licheng Qian [Zhejiang University in China] and Weirong Guo [graduate student at Emory]) “The Cultural Sociology of China: Trajectory and Dynamics of a Burgeoning Field” was accepted for publication with Cultural Sociology!

Please download the article from HERE!

Here’s the abstract

In this essay, we review the burgeoning field of the cultural sociology of China. We first describe the trajectory and feature of the development of the cultural sociology of China. We argue that the evolution of this scholarship has involved three intertwined social, political, and intellectual processes across national boundaries: 1) the production, diffusion, reception, and reproduction of modern social scientific paradigms from the West, especially the United States, to China; 2) the tensions between China studies as “area studies” in Western academia and sociology as a discipline; 3) the entangled relations between politics and knowledge in both China and the West. Then we review existing cultural sociological studies of various topics in three broad categories: economy, politics, and civil society. We end our essay with a discussion of promising topics and agenda for future research and potential challenges.


Pleased to announce my paper was accepted for publication with Social Psychology Quarterly (SPQ).
This is the first article from my sent-down youth memory project, and the book manuscript based on the project is under review. Here’s the title and abstract:

Intra-generational Variations in Autobiographic Memory: China’s ‘Sent-Down Youth’ Generation

The relationship between generation and memory instantiates a theme central to sociology: the intersection between history and biography. This paper addresses two gaps in the literature. First, while the dominant approach uses a cognitive concept of memory operationalized as naming events, I focus on autobiographic memory represented in life stories, in which members of a generation understand the meanings of their personal past as part of a historical event. Second, while the dominant approach stresses intergenerational differences of memory, I draw on a Bourdieu-Mannheim theoretical framework on class—including class positions and habitus—describe and explain intra-generational differences in autobiographic memory. The two theoretical goals are achieved through theorizing an important case: the autobiographic memories of China’s “sent-down youth” generation, the 17 million youths (“zhiqing”) sent down by the state to the countryside in the 1960s and 1970s. Drawing on a qualitative and quantitative analysis of life-history interviews with 87 former zhiqing, I describe how this generation reconciles two components of autobiographic memory: personal experience in their sent-down years and historical evaluation of the send-down program. Their present class positions shape their memory of the personal experience, while their political habitus formed in the political-class system in the Mao years molds their historical evaluations of the program. Their habitus may change as a response to the social transformation in recent decades. This article not only contributes to our understanding of generational memory but also brings class back into the field.


My new interview with Neysun Mahboubi (Center for the Study of Contemporary China at the University of Pennsylvania) on my book The Politics of Compassion: The Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China and related issues on civil society and civic engagement.


Honored and Humbled. My book The Politics of Compassion: The Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China (Stanford, 2017) has won two awards from the American Sociological Association (ASA):

  • Mary Douglas Prize for Best Book in Sociology of Culture, the Sociology of Culture Section, American Sociological Association (2018)

  • The Best Book Prize on Asia/Transnational (Honorable Mention), Asia/Asian America Section, American Sociological Association (2018)

My New Writing

The World Is Yours! Youth and Civic Engagement from Sichuan to Parkland

A brief essay published in Chinoiresie, an online China-focused magazine by Australian National University.

ACLS Conference Grant

I am lucky enough to receive a grant ( Comparative Perspectives on Chinese Culture and Society) from American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) which is to support a conference on Politics, Societies, and Disasters: China and BeyondThis conference will bring together scholars from various disciplines and countries to engage in an interdisciplinary and comparative study of disasters in China and other countries. The participants will present their papers on social, cultural, and political aspects of disasters in China, Japan, Taiwan, Europe, and the US and engage in discussions. The purpose of this conference is to develop a theoretical and analytical framework with comparative concepts and mechanisms from disasters in China and other contexts.

Talks and Presentations

March 23 Association for Asian Studies. The Sichuan Earthquake Panel

The discussion was moderated by Louisa Lim (former NPR journalist who covered the earthquake), joined by Colorado College’s Christian Sorace, Georgia State University’s Maria Repnikova, and Yi Kang from Hong Kong Baptist University.

The podcast can be found at Little Red Podcast

March 22 Columbia University. School of Social Work

March 26 University of Toronto. The Munk School of Global Affairs

March 8-9 Northwestern University. The Sichuan Earthquake Commemoration Event. Equality Development and Globalization Studies.

Feb 22 University of Pennsylvania.

Feb 1 Yale University (Council on East Asian Studies).

Jan 31. National Committee on US-China Relations (NYC).

Talk video can be seen here.

Podcast Interview can be seen here.

November 29, 2017. 太湖群学书院(Public Lecture)

November 21, 2017. Nanjing University. China.

November 16, 2017. University of California at Davis

Report by Institute for Social Sciences.

Report by the Humanities Institute.

October 19, 2017. Georgia Tech/China Research Center. “New Scholarship on China”

September 28, 2017. Georgetown University

September 22, 2017. Emory University.

My AAS Interview on My New Book

The Association for Asian Studies (AAS) just did an interview with me on my new book The Politics of Compassion: The Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China.

My talk on my new book on the Sichuan earthquake on Sept 22 at Emory University. Free and open to the public.



My book “The Politics of Compassion: The Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China” (Stanford University Press, 2017) is available now for order at Amazon.



I am thrilled to announce that I was awarded the Henry Luce/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowship in China Studies. This prestigious and generous fellowship allows me to spend the entire academic year of 2017-2018 on research and writing. I will work on my second book on collective memory of China’s zhiqing (the “educated youth”) generation. I am grateful for the funding provided by the Henry Luce Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).

Publication (March 8, 2017)

My new article just comes out in Memory Studies:

Commemorating a difficult disaster: Naturalizing and denaturalizing the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China


This article addresses a gap in memory studies—memory of disasters—by asking what distinctive features of difficult disasters shape content and form of commemorations. I draw on textual and visual data to examine official and oppositional commemorations of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China. I argue that tension between natural and unnatural interpretations of the earthquake shapes both the content and form of the commemorations. This tension is manifested in three focal issues in the content of commemorations: natural or unnatural causes of the suffering and death, political and moral reaction to the earthquake, and consequences of the earthquake. In form, the state carries out large-scale rituals, builds memorials, and creates a “topography of forgetting” so that the ruins with a possible “natural explanation” are preserved and the ones with unnatural explanations removed and covered. In contrast, the oppositional commemorations are small in scale and only survive at the margins.

Media Report (March 3, 2017)

Emory Report’s story about me:

Fellowship (February 1, 2017)

I was selected to be one of the 21 new Public Intellectuals Program fellows at the National Committee on US-China Relations.

Excited to be part of this wonderful group.


My book “The Politics of Compassion: the Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China” will be published by Stanford University Press in 2017


I will give a talk on “Unequal Memories: the “Educated Youth” Generation and China’s Difficult Past” at Vanderbilt University on April 8. The talk is sponsored by the Asian Studies and the Department of History.

New Position

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be joining the Department of Sociology at Emory University in this fall!


My chapter on “Disasters, trauma, and memory” appears in the Routledge International Handbook of Memory Studies edited by Ana Lisa Tota and Trever Hagen.

2016-01-04 12.44.08 2016-01-04 12.44.30


The syllabus for my course on “Social Theory: Collective Memory” (Spring 2016) is available now:

Click Here


Pleased to announce my paper “Moral Performance and Cultural Governance: the Efficacy and Dilemmas of Compassionate Politics of Disasters” has been officially accepted for publication in the China Quarterly. Here’s the abstract:
This article examines the Chinese state’s moral performance in several major disasters, including the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, the 1998 Yangtze River floods, and the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. Drawing on the theatrical theory of symbolic politics, I argue that the Sichuan earthquake marked a turn in the state’s moral performance: While the Chinese state continued to project an image of a secure, heroic state, it endeavoured to project a sympathetic image through leaders’ display of compassion and sorrow, a mourning ritual for ordinary victims, and narratives of response and recovery. This shift toward more compassionate performance can be explained by the state’s deploying cultural resources to respond to the societal challenges since the new millennium and its effort to repair its image amid the crises in 2008. The compassionate performance was temporarily effective because it found common ground with the traditional political culture of disaster, which still shapes the public’s expectation for the state’s moral conduct, and the new public culture that prizes equality and dignity of human lives. Nevertheless, its political dilemmas became evident. Its efficacy largely relied on presentation of suffering in the scene, which, nevertheless, led to public demands for the state to address causes of the suffering. When the state failed to construct an “accountable state” image, as in the controversy over the school collapse issue, this “dilemma of scene” backfired on its legitimacy. The efficacy of paternalism was also limited because it was less appealing to the fast-growing urban middle class. By addressing moral performance, this paper contributes to the literature of politics of disaster and advances the important research agenda on cultural governance.


I will give a talk at Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences on May 11, 2015, on “Politics of Moral Sentiments: Civil Society and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake in China“.


My paper “Consensus Crisis and Civil Society: The Sichuan Earthquake Response and State-Society Relations” is officially accepted by The China Journal for publication.

Another paper “For whom the bell tolls: state-society relations and the Sichuan earthquake mourning in China” is officially accepted by Theory&Society for publication.

Media Interview

BBC’s article quotes my words on national mourning:


My paper “Mourning Become Democratic” appears in Contexts, one of ASA’s official journals:

Mourning Becomes Democratic

Grant & Award

Pleased to announce my project on the educated youth (zhiqing) won the Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline (FAD) from the American Sociological Association.

“The Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline (FAD) is supported by the American Sociological Association through a matching grant from the National Science Foundation. The goal of the program is to nurture the development of scientific knowledge by funding small, groundbreaking research initiatives and other important scientific research activities such as conferences. FAD awards provide scholars with “seed money” for innovative research that has the potential for challenging the discipline, stimulating new lines of research, and creating new networks of scientific collaboration. The award is intended to provide opportunities for substantive and methodological breakthroughs, broaden the dissemination of scientific knowledge, and provide leverage for acquisition of additional research funds.”


My paper “Grandpa Wen: Scene and Political Performance” was officially accepted for publication in Sociological Theory. The paper draws on dramaturgic theories to address an understudied factor of performance: scene.Please see Other research and writing for an abstract.

Research Travel

I was awarded a travel grant from Duke Library Asian Collection to conduct a week-long library research there in December.


I will attend Social Science History Association Annual Meeting in Boston, November 17-20, presenting a paper on “Culture, Memory, and Generation” panel. I will also chair/discuss two other panels in political sociology and cultural theory networks.

The paper is about educated youths’ memory and generation. Here’s the abstract (full-length paper is available upon request):


My co-authored paper (second author with Gary Alan Fine) “Honest Brokers: The Politics of Expertise in the ‘Who Lost China?’ Debate” has been officially accepted at Social Problems. The paper focuses on politics of expertise reputation. Our empirical case is a public dispute and several Congressional hearings in the 1950s, when American conservative politicians’ claimed that Owen Lattimore, a prestigious Asia scholar, should be responsible for the “loss of China.”

Public Writing (May 2011)

My piece about the Japan earthquake politics is up on Deliberately Considered (by Jeffrey Goldfarb at New School):

Public Participation (Jan. 2011)

I will serve as an expert reviewer for Southern Weekends “Happy China Social Welfare Programs”


Teaching 12/25/2010 Updated

I will be teaching Integrating Project Seminar with an emphasis on Disasters in a Global World in the International Studies Program at Northwestern University in the coming Winter Quarter.

Award 09/19 Updated

Winch Award for Best Graduate Published/Presented Paper from the Department of Sociology, Northwestern University, 2010, for paper “Moral Legitimacy and the Ritual of Downplaying: State-Society Relationship in the National Mourning for the Sichuan Earthquake Victims in China.”


One of my papers (first author with Gary Alan Fine) comes out as a chapter in Northeast Asia’s Difficult Past: Essays in Collective Memory, edited by Mikyoung Kim and Barry Schwartz. Palgrave-McMillan.2010.

The title is “Memory Movement and State-Society Relationship in Chinese World War II Victims’ Reparations Movement Against Japan”


My first-author paper “Dynamic Statism and Memory Politics: A Case Analysis of the Chinese War Reparations Movement.” (published in The China Quarterly: March, 2010 issue) wins the Best Graduate Student Paper Award from Asia and Asian America section of American Sociological Association

Recent Presentations

November 2010 Social Science History Association, Chicago, IL. Discussant, “Politics of Memory in Post Conflict Societies” panel

August, 2010 American Sociological Association, Social Theory Regular Session. Atlanta.

July, 2010 International Sociological Association, Social Theory Research Committee, Political Performance Session, Gothenburg, Sweden. Topic: Grandpa Wen and Interaction Rituals (Tentative title)

April 8, 2010 Northwestern University Culture and Society Workshop presentation. Topic: “Rite of Reversal: Commemoration, Emotion, Politics in the National Mourning for the Sichuan Earthquake Victims”

April 1, 2010 Northeastern Illinois University 15th Annual Asian American Heritage Conference disaster panel, Chicago, IL. Topic: “Civic Participation and Disaster in the Wake of the Sichuan Earthquake”

March 31, 2010 Midwest Sociological Society social theory panel presentation, Chicago, IL. Topic: “Explaining Solidarity among Strangers: A Theoretical Framework based on Interaction Ritual and Publics”

March 13, 2010 Presentation at Michigan Social Theory conference, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Topic: “Rite of Reversal: Commemoration, Emotion, Politics in the National Mourning for the Sichuan Earthquake Victims”