I received my Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2003. My current research agenda consists of three separate but interrelated streams, all of which use the case of legal institutions in China to engage theoretical debates in the sociology of institutions, economic sociology, law and society, and the sociology of professions. In addition to my first book, Dear Lawyer Bao: Ten Years of Legal Advice for Everyday Trouble in China, 1989-1998 (forthcoming, University of California Press), each of the three research streams I describe below represents a separate book project. Before I complete the book projects, however, I am first publishing several series of journal articles.
The first stream is about the process and consequences of the privatization of the Chinese bar. I examine the many difficulties Chinese lawyers negotiate while trying to balance competing and contradictory pressures from global and local sources and from the state and the market. Their plight and their innovative coping strategies offer many lessons for sociological theories of institutions. The first article from this project has been published in the American Journal of Sociology.
The second stream concerns the reasons why and the methods by which Chinese lawyers screen cases. By analyzing how lawyers reframe, reinterpret, and deny the legal legitimacy of claims asserted by the weak and the powerless, this project explicitly links micro-level discursive strategies with macro-level political and legal institutions. The first article from this project has been published in Law & Society Review.
The third stream reveals sources of popular grievances and what ordinary people do about them. Occupying a central place in this project is the peasant petitioner, the aggrieved villager appealing to higher levels of government administration for the redress of local grievances, including excessive taxation, “land grabs,” and the enforcement of family planning policies. Most recently I have been exploring the relationship between contemporary popular contention and memories of past trauma. Articles from this project have been published in the American Sociological Review and The China Quarterly.
More details are available at: http://www.indiana.edu/~emsoc.