Dreadful Desires: A Conversation with Charlie Yi Zhang

In his new book, Dreadful Desires: The Uses of Love in Neoliberal China (Duke University Press, 2022), Charlie Yi Zhang explores how the Chinese State mobilises love to regulate the affective economy and life choices of its population. Affective notions of love, Zhang demonstrates, are constructed in a way that bolsters nationalism, heteronormativity, and neoliberalism—forces […]

The Opium Business: A Conversation with Peter Thilly

Peter Thilly’s new book, The Opium Business: A History of Crime and Capitalism in Maritime China (Stanford University Press, 2022), focuses on the nitty-gritty of the opium trade in Fujian Province from the 1830s to 1938. Its main goal is to shift our attention from the still-prevalent overarching narratives of national humiliation and anti-imperialist moralism […]

Imperial Gateway: A Conversation with Seiji Shirane

How does one write the history of an empire? One approach is to focus on plans made in a metropole and carried out by armies and colonial officials in nearby or distant locales. Another highlights struggles in those targeted locales carried out by people threatened by imperial actions. And yet another combines a top-down concern […]

Transtopia in the Sinophone Pacific: A Conversation with Howard Chiang

Howard Chiang’s Transtopia in the Sinophone Pacific (Columbia University Press, 2021) articulates a methodology that connects Sinophone Studies with transgender history. Specifically, Chiang argues for the need to ‘reorient the way transness and queerness are understood in the field of Asian studies’ (p. xii). Drawing on transnational archival materials and cultural artefacts, he demonstrates the […]

Poverty and Pacification: A Conversation with Dorothy J. Solinger

Dorothy J. Solinger’s latest book, Poverty and Pacification: The Chinese State Abandons the Old Working Class (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022), is dedicated to ‘all of those whose lives were wrenched’ in globalising China. Solinger is passionate about working people, including rural migrants and laid-off urban workers, as reflected in her decades-long commitment to activism and […]

Tiger, Tyrant, Bandit, Businessman: A Conversation with Brian DeMare

The rural county of Poyang in northern Jiangxi Province goes largely unmentioned in the annals of modern Chinese history. Yet records from the Public Security Bureau archive hold a treasure trove of data on the everyday interactions between locals and the law. Drawing on these largely overlooked resources, in Tiger, Tyrant, Bandit, Businessman: Echoes of Counterrevolution from New China (Stanford University Press, 2022), Brian DeMare follows four criminal cases that together uniquely illuminate the dawning years of the People’s Republic of China. 

Newborn Socialist Things: A Conversation with Laurence Coderre

I recently participated in an event on ‘Socialist Stuff’ hosted by Stanford’s materia working group. Fittingly, it featured all the technical difficulties typical of hybrid in-person/remote gatherings, but we nonetheless muddled through in pursuit of a productive alchemy between Jacqueline Loss’s work on Cuba and mine on China (Loss 2013; Loss and Prieto 2012). I […]

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The Urbanisation of People: A Conversation with Eli Friedman

In his new book, The Urbanization of People: The Politics of Development, Labor Markets, and Schooling in the Chinese City (Columbia University Press, 2022), Eli Friedman offers a novel take on China’s handling of internal migration through the perspective of migrant workers’ children. Through ethnographic research and hundreds of in-depth interviews, he shows how the […]

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Outsourcing Repression: A Conversation with Lynette Ong

Outsourcing Repression: Everyday State Power in Contemporary China, Lynette Ong’s new book with Oxford University Press, provides an original and realistic analysis of the Chinese state’s control over society beyond the usual focus of the study of authoritarian states, such as on outright coercion or censorship. Her concept of ‘everyday state power’ sheds light on […]

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Ideas Are Bullet-Proof: A Conversation with Ching Kwan Lee

Ching Kwan Lee is a sociology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and former Chung Sze-Yuen Professor of Social Science and chair professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST, 2019–21). She is the author of several award-winning monographs on Chinese capitalism and labour, including Gender and the South […]

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