I’m pleased to announce that Dr. Bin Xu will be joining the faculty of Emory Sociology at the start of the 2016-2017 academic year. He was one of four stellar candidates who we identified in our Culture and China search and who we brought to campus in January 2016.
Bin’s broad areas of expertise occur at the intersection of cultural sociology and social psychology. Consequently, he fits perfectly with our program and its new emphases on such intersections (with the intersection between health and inequality being our other main emphasis). He gets at that intersection of culture and social psychology by focusing, in particular, on civil society and collective memory in contemporary China.
Bin’s focus on civil society is especially apparent in his major project addressing the aftermath of the devastating Sichuan earthquake of 2008 — including the engagement of everyday citizens involved in rescue and relief, in the mourning of the victims, and in the compiling of young victims’ names. His 2013 article in Theory and Society, for instance, documents the first instance of state-sanctioned “mourning for the ordinary” that followed the Sichuan earthquake, and it addresses why this mourning ritual did not follow previous disasters but did the 2008 earthquake.
Bin’s focus on collective memory is evident in his latest project. There, he investigates the “educated youth” (zhiqing) generation — which involved some 17 million graduates being sent to the hinterlands of China in the 1960s and 1970s, given high levels of urban unemployment and official desires to steep young people in the doctrines of the communist party; yet, this relocation eventually proved ineffectual, and these educated youth pressed for their return to the cities from which they originated. As we heard in his impressive job talk, Bin deals with these very individuals, who are now senior citizens. In particular, he seeks to understand how their late-age identities and memories were linked to the broader values associated with this pivotal moment in China’s history — as well as showing how patterns across these individuals resulted from their different career trajectories following their time in the hinterlands.
Bin is able to pursue such ambitious projects given his expertise in both ethnography and theory. He developed such expertise when earning his BA in politics at East China Normal University, his MA in sociology at University of California, Davis, his PhD in sociology at Northwestern University and while holding a post-doctoral associateship at Yale University.
Currently an assistant professor at Florida International University, Bin has already compiled an impressive record of publications and honors. Thus, my colleagues and I eagerly look forward to the next phase of his career, when he becomes an assistant professor in Emory Sociology. We also are grateful to Hanban for providing support for this Confucius Institute Assistant Professorship at Emory.