Bin Xu

Assistant Professor

Office: Tarbutton Hall 211

Email: bin.xu@emory.edu

Education

  • Ph.D. in Sociology, Northwestern University, 2011
  • M.A. in Sociology, University of California, Davis, 2005
  • B.A. in Politics, East China Normal University, China, 1996

Biography

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Emory University. I received my Ph.D. in Sociology from Northwestern University.

My research interests are situated at two intersections. The first intersection is within the disciplinary boundary of sociology: between cultural sociology and political sociology. The second intersection is between two broader “fields”: general sociology and China studies. My primary identity is a cultural/political sociologist, but I also have enjoyed the cross-fertilization between sociology as a general social science and China studies as a field of area studies. My ultimate intellectual goal is also twofold: to develop generalizable knowledge without sacrificing a sensitivity to context-specific processes and local knowledge; to address important public issues without losing scientific rigor and intellectual depth.

This research agenda has been reflected in two interrelated lines of research.  

The first line of my research interest focuses on how an authoritarian state—in my case, contemporary China—interacts with a burgeoning civil society in various situations. The main empirical focus of my past project is the situation of disaster, in which heavy casualties and suffering make moral and political issues visible and urgent. My forthcoming book with Stanford University Press, titled The Politics of Compassion: the Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China (Available for preorder at: http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=26599), combines cultural sociology with extensive data from interviews, observations, and textual materials to examine how civically engaged citizens acted on the ground, how they understood the meaning of their action, and how the political context shaped both their actions and the meaning they attributed to them. This book not only provides a window on the world of civic engagement in contemporary China but also contributes to the cultural sociology of civil society by revisiting Tocqueville’s “habits of the heart” argument in an authoritarian political context. In addition to the book, I also use the data from this project and other cases to address another important question: How do modern states perform to shore up their legitimacy especially in the situations in which their citizens suffer from catastrophes? This issue is significant for both substantive cultural/political sociology and sociological theory of performance.

Second, collective memory. I am currently writing a book and a few related articles on the collective memory of China’s “educated youth” (zhiqing) generation—the 17 million Chinese youth sent down to the countryside in the 1960s and 1970s. I draw on the data collected in the last three years, including life history interviews, ethnography, and archival research, to address how members of this important generation interpret meanings of their past difficulties and sufferings in the countryside, how those interpretations are represented and expressed in autobiographic memories, cultural objects, and commemorative activities, and what their memories tell us about this generation’s mentality. This project aims to understand the Maoist legacy through reading the minds and hearts of those “Chairman Mao’s children.” It also aims to generate a theoretical framework from Karl Mannheim’s and Pierre Bourdieu’s theories to address a few general issues related to generation, class, and memory. My previous work on collective memory deals with WWII memories in China, nationalism, mourning, and disaster and trauma.

In addition to the book on the Sichuan earthquake, my articles have appeared in leading journals in sociology and China studies, such as Sociological Theory, Theory & Society, Social Problems, The China Quarterly, The China Journal, and so on. I have won awards from American Sociological Association/National Science Foundation and American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). In 2016, I was selected as one of the 21 Public Intellectuals Program (PIP) fellows at the National Committee on US-China Relations, a prestigious program designed to nurture young China specialists to facilitate mutual understanding between the United States and China (https://www.ncuscr.org/pip ) . Please visit my personal website (www.binxu.net ) for more information.

Research

Cultural Sociology, Political Sociology, Social Psychology, Political and Cultural Sociology of Disasters, Collective Memory