My research interests include China, social movements, labor, and authoritarianism. Most fundamentally, I am fascinated and inspired by the power of ordinary people mobilizing in challenging political contexts.
Workers and Change in China
I have a book forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, “Workers and Change in China: Resistance, Repression, Responsiveness,” which uses an original crowd-sourced and geo-referenced dataset of strikes, protests, and riots (see below), as well as regional case studies grounded in extensive interviews, to show that rising labor unrest is transforming Chinese governance from below, with complex long-term consequences for activists and authorities alike.
New Project: Power on the Margins
What power do citizens on the furthest margins of contemporary authoritarian states possess? During the great upheavals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, lumpenproletarians—the chronically unemployed, small-time criminals, etc.—were the subject of intense debate. In recent years, this group appears to have played a dual role: as thugs hired by authorities to intimidate potential regime challengers, on the one hand, and as people who escalate protests out of control, on the other. My new project examines the values and actions of this “dangerous class” and their implications for dictatorship and democracy.
Since 2010, I have maintained the website China Strikes, which maps strikes, protests, and other contentious, collective actions taken by Chinese workers to defend their rights and interests. The site relies on a variety of data sources, including reports from visitors. At present, it covers the years 2003 through 2012 or the full Hu Jintao-Wen Jiabao era. China Strikes has been mentioned by The Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog, Shanghaiist, China Study Group and Talking Union.