People

The center brings together students and scholars at Duke Kunshan University, Wuhan University, and other institutions across China and around the world to pursue a common scholarly interest in contemporary Chinese affairs. Many of the center’s activities are open to the broader community.

Two social scientists with primary expertise on contemporary China—Yu Wang at Duke Kunshan University and Melanie Manion at Duke University—together direct the center and coordinate its activities.

  • Yu Wang

    Assistant Professor of Social Science, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Yu Wang is an Assistant Professor of Social Science at Duke Kunshan University. She received her BS and MS in Sociology from Renmin University and her MS and PhD in Sociology from the University of WisconsinMadison (2017). Her research focuses on the role of intermarriage and individual achievement as pathways to social mobility in China during a period of rapid economic, social, and demographic change. A second line of her research is sexuality and reproductive behavior in the US. Her current project is about the interaction between demographic changes and assortative mating in contemporary China. Her articles have appeared in journals, such as Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, American Journal of Public Health, and Contraception.

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  • Melanie Manion

    Vor Broker Family Professor of Political Science, Duke University

    Bio

    Melanie Manion is Vor Broker Family Professor of Political Science at Duke University. She studied philosophy and political economy at Peking University in the late 1970s, was trained in Far Eastern studies at McGill University and the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and earned her PhD in political science at the University of Michigan (1989). Her research on contemporary China focuses on issues of governance, bureaucracy, transparency, and information. She is the recipient of numerous research awards, including awards from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and American Council of Learned Societies. Her most recent book, Information for Autocrats (Cambridge University Press, 2015), examines representation in Chinese local congresses. Previous publications include Retirement of Revolutionaries in China (Princeton University Press, 1993), Corruption by Design (Harvard University Press, 2004), and Contemporary Chinese Politics: New Sources, Methods, and Field Strategies (Cambridge University Press, 2010, edited with Allen Carlson, Mary Gallagher, and Kenneth Lieberthal). Her articles have appeared in journals including American Political Science Review, Comparative Political Studies, and China Quarterly.

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Faculty Expertise on Contemporary China

Core affiliates of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China are Duke Kunshan University faculty in the social sciences and humanities with a primary research and teaching focus on contemporary China.

  • Nellie Chu

    Assistant Professor of Social Science, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Nellie Chu is an Assistant Professor of Social Science at Duke Kunshan University. She received her BA in International Relations (Highest Honors) and German Language and Culture (High Honors), from the University of California, Davis and her MA and PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz (2014). In 20162017, she held a fellowship from the American Council for Learned Societies/Henry Luce Foundation for China Studies and the National Endowment for the Humanities and served as a Visiting Professor at the University of Goettingen Center for Modern East Asian Studies in Germany. In 20172018, she held a Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University’s School for Industrial and Labor Research. Dr. Chu’s current research focuses on global supply chains in fashion and the transnational role of migrant entrepreneurs. She has also started a new project on West African and Korean religious communities related to the doctrine of prosperity. Her research site for both projects is Guangzhou.

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  • Zach Fredman

    Assistant Professor of Humanities, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Zach Fredman is an Assistant Professor of Humanities at Duke Kunshan University. He received his BA in History from the University of Arizona and his MA and PhD in History from Boston University (2016). Dr. Fredman’s research focuses on U.S.-China relations, and his first book, forthcoming with University of North Carolina Press, examines the U.S. military presence in China during the 1940s. Dr. Fredman has carried out extensive archival research in China, and his work has been published in Frontiers of History in China, Diplomatic History, Diplomacy and Statecraft, and The Washington Post. In 2017, he received the Edward M. Coffman First Book Manuscript Prize from the Society for Military History and the Betty M. Unterberger Dissertation Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. Prior to joining Duke Kunshan University, he held postdoctoral fellowships at Dartmouth College (2017–2018) and Nanyang Technological University (2016–2017).

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  • Selina Lai-Henderson

    Assistant Professor of Humanities, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Selina Lai-Henderson is an Assistant Professor of Humanities at Duke Kunshan University. She received her BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong, her MA in American Studies from Heidelberg University, Germany, was a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University, and received her PhD in American Studies from the University of Hong Kong (2013). Prior to joining Duke Kunshan University, she was a Research Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Hong Kong. Dr. Lai-Henderson’s first book, Mark Twain in China (Stanford University Press) was published in 2015, and her current work focuses on W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes in Shanghai. She is a cultural and literary scholar and historian.

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  • Andrew MacDonald

    Assistant Professor of Social Science, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Andrew MacDonald is an Assistant Professor of Social Science at Duke Kunshan University. He received his BA in History and MA in East Asian Studies from Stanford University and his MPhil and PhD in Politics from Oxford University (2015). He was a Postdoctoral Associate at the Center for Asian Democracy at the University of Louisville in 20172017. Dr. MacDonald’s primary interest is in finding new ways of unlocking data to better understand individual-level outcomes in China. His research focuses on service provision in authoritarian regimes and the incentive structure of developing nations in providing social welfare benefits as well as how individuals are impacted by and react to state narratives and ideology.

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  • James Miller

    Professor of Humanities, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    James Miller is a Professor of Humanities at Duke Kunshan University. He received a BA (Honors) in Chinese Studies, a BA (Honors) and an MA in Theological and Religious Studies from Cambridge University, and a PhD in Religious and Theological Studies from Boston University (2000). Prior to joining Duke Kunshan University, he was a Professor of Chinese Studies in the School of Religion at Queen’s University, Canada, cross-appointed to the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and Director of the School of Religion. Dr. Miller’s current research focuses on the intersection of religion and the environment in China. He has published six books, including, most recently, China’s Green Religion: Daoism and the Quest for a Sustainable Future (Columbia University Press, 2017).

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  • Ben Van Overmeire

    Assistant Professor of Humanities, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Ben Van Overmeire is an Assistant Professor of Humanities at Duke Kunshan University. He received his BA (cum laude) and his MA (summa cum laude) in Germanic Languages and Literatures from the VrijeUniversiteit Brussel, his MA in American Studies (magna cum laude) from the University of Antwerp, his MA in Comparative Literature (magna cum laude) from the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and his PhD in Literature from the University of California, San Diego (2016). In 20162017, he was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at St. Olaf College. Currently, he is a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation, Flanders, at Ghent University. Dr. Van Overmeire is trained in Comparative Literature, and his research focuses on the study of Zen Buddhist texts.

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  • Don Snow

    Professor and Director of the Language and Culture Center, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Don Snow is Director of the Language and Culture Center at Duke Kunshan University. He has a BA in History from the College of Wooster, an MA in English (TESOL) from Michigan State University, and a PhD in East Asian Language and Cultures (Chinese linguistics) from Indiana University (1991). His primary China-related research interest focuses on Chinese dialects and the historical development of their written forms. His scholarly work includes articles on the written forms of Cantonese, Chaoshan (Teochew), Suzhounese, and Shanghainese, and he is the author of the monograph Cantonese as Written Language: The Growth of a Written Chinese Vernacular (Hong Kong University Press, 2004).

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  • Daniel Stephens

    Assistant Professor of Humanities, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Daniel Stephens is an Assistant Professor of Humanities at Duke Kunshan University. He received his BA in Philosophy from Grand Valley State University, his MPhil in Philosophy from the University of Hong Kong, and his PhD in Philosophy from Duke University (2015). In 20152017, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for East Asian and Comparative Philosophy, Department of Public Policy, City University of Hong Kong. In 20172018 he was a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Fordham University. Dr. Stephens studies both traditional interpretations of Chinese philosophy and the dialogue between Chinese philosophy and modern ethics and social psychology.

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  • Mengqi Wang

    Assistant Professor of Social Science, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Mengqi Wang is an Assistant Professor of Social Science at Duke Kunshan University. She received her BA in Economics and in Chinese and Media Studies from Beijing Normal University, and her MA and PhD in Anthropology from Brandeis University (2017). Dr. Wang’s research focuses on economic anthropology and how home ownership and property relations implicate and structure state power, capitalism, and everyday life in post-socialist China as well as among overseas Chinese.

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  • Qian Zhu

    Assistant Professor of Humanities, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Qian Zhu is an Assistant Professor of Humanities at Duke Kunshan University. She received her BA and MA in History from Shandong University and her PhD in History from New York University (2011). She taught for four years at Wabash College in Indiana, and since 2016 she has been a Global Perspectives on Society Fellow at NYU-Shanghai. Dr. Zhu’s research focuses on Modern Chinese History and on China’s current global challenges. Her first project is a comparative and transnational inquiry of intellectual and cultural history focused on Chinese leftism and anti-colonialism in Southeast Asia, 19381948. She has a second project on feminism and everyday life in post-socialist China, which focuses on feminism in entrepreneurship, reproductive labor, and social welfare and is based in part on interviews with entrepreneurs and migrant workers in Shanghai as well as archival research and social media.

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Governance

Professors Yu Wang and Melanie Manion work closely with others who constitute the center’s executive committee.

Executive Committee

  • Edmund Malesky

    Professor of Political Economy, Duke University

    Bio

    Edmund Malesky is a Professor of Political Economy in the Department of Political Science at Duke University. His research focuses on economic development, governance, and the political economy of authoritarian institutions in Southeast Asia and China. In 2012, he received a state medal from the Government of Vietnam for his role in promoting economic development through USAID's Vietnam Provincial Competitiveness Index; in 2013, he was appointed by President Obama to serve on the board of the Vietnam Education Foundation. He has published numerous articles in leading political science and economics journals, as well as China's Governance Puzzle: Enabling Transparency and Participation in a Single-Party State (Cambridge University Press, 2017, with Jonathan Stromseth and Dimitar Gueorguiev) and Incentives to Pander: How Politicians Use Corporate Welfare for Political Gain (Cambridge University Press, 2018, co-authored with Nate Jensen). He holds a BSFS from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, a PhD from Duke University (2004), and has held, inter alia, a Harvard Academy Fellowship and a Rockefeller Bellagio Residency Fellowship.

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  • Andrew MacDonald

    Assistant Professor of Social Science, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Andrew MacDonald is an Assistant Professor of Social Science at Duke Kunshan University. He received his BA in History and MA in East Asian Studies from Stanford University and his MPhil and PhD in Politics from Oxford University (2015). He was a Postdoctoral Associate at the Center for Asian Democracy at the University of Louisville in 20172017. Dr. MacDonald’s primary interest is in finding new ways of unlocking data to better understand individual-level outcomes in China. His research focuses on service provision in authoritarian regimes and the incentive structure of developing nations in providing social welfare benefits as well as how individuals are impacted by and react to state narratives and ideology.

    close
  • Mengqi Wang

    Assistant Professor of Social Science, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Mengqi Wang is an Assistant Professor of Social Science at Duke Kunshan University. She received her BA in Economics and in Chinese and Media Studies from Beijing Normal University, and her MA and PhD in Anthropology from Brandeis University (2017). Dr. Wang’s research focuses on economic anthropology and how home ownership and property relations implicate and structure state power, capitalism, and everyday life in post-socialist China as well as among overseas Chinese.

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  • Giovanni Zanalda

    Associate Research Professor of Social Science, Economics, and History, Duke University

    Bio

    Giovanni Zanalda is an Associate Research Professor in the Social Science Research Institute, Department of Economics, and Department of History at Duke University. Since August 2015, he has been Director of the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies. He is also former Director of the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute at Duke University. He holds a BA from the University of Turin, an MA from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD from Johns Hopkins University (2008). He is an economic historian specialized in the history of the international economy, finance, and development from the sixteenth century to the present. He has been a consultant in the Office of the Vice President, Development Economics at the World Bank and the Italian Delegation at the OECD (Financial Unit). He has conducted research and missions in various European, Asian, and African countries in addition to Argentina and the United States.

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Board of Stakeholders

Professors Yu Wang, Melanie Manion, and other executive committee members consult regularly with a larger board of stakeholders.

  • Prasenjit Duara

    Oscar Tang Chair of East Asian Studies, Duke University

    Bio

    Prasenjit Duara is the Oscar Tang Chair of East Asian Studies at Duke University. Born and educated in India, he received his PhD in Chinese history from Harvard University (1983). He was Professor of History and East Asian Studies at University of Chicago (1991–2008) and Raffles Professor and Director of Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore (2008–2015). His books include Culture, Power and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942 (Stanford University Press, 1988), winner of the Fairbank Prize of the American Historical Association and Levenson Prize of the Association of Asian Studies; Rescuing History from the Nation (University of Chicago Press, 1995); Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern (Rowman and Littlefield, 2003); and The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future (Cambridge University Press, 2014). He was awarded the doctor philosophiae honoris causa from the University of Oslo in 2017.

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  • Richard Jaffe, ex officio

    Director of Asian/Pacific Studies Institute, Duke University

    Bio

    Richard Jaffe is Director of the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University. He received his BA from San Francisco State University and his MA and PhD from Yale University (1995). His research focuses on Japanese Buddhism during the early modern and modern periods, Asian Buddhist modernism, pan-Asianism, and nationalism during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is author of Neither Monk nor Layman: Clerical Marriage in Modern Japanese Buddhism (Princeton University Press, 2000) as well as numerous articles in scholar journals. He is editor of Selected Works of D. T. Suzuki, Zen Works (University of California Press, 2014). He has received awards from the National Humanities Center and the American Council on Learned Societies.

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  • Lisa A. Keister

    Gilhuly Family Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, Duke University

    Bio

    Lisa Keister is Gilhuly Family Professor of Sociology and Public Policy. She is also a Faculty Research Scholar in the Duke Population Research Initiative and the Duke Network Analysis Center. She is an economic sociologist who conducts research on wealth inequality and organizational strategy. Her work on China has primarily focused on how firms adapted to the country’s economic transition and has appeared in many journals as well as volumes such as Chinese Business Groups (Oxford University Press, 2000) and Organizations and Management in China (Routledge, 2016, with Yanlong Zhang). She is currently completing work on wealth inequality, including research that looks at China’s wealthiest families. In addition to her work on China, Keister studies wealth ownership and inequality in the United States. She is author of Wealth in America (Cambridge University Press, 2000) Getting Rich (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and Faith and Money: How Religious Belief Contributes to Wealth and Poverty (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Russell Sage Foundation, and other organizations.

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  • Ralph Litzinger

    Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Duke University

    Bio

    Ralph Litzinger is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. His early research focused on the culture and politics of ethnicity, nationalism, and post-socialism in China. He has published on Marxist nationality theory in China, on ethnic politics in the post-Cold War global order, on gender and ethnic representation, and on ethnographic film, photography, and popular culture. His Other Chinas: The Yao and the Politics of National Belonging (Duke University Press, 2000) was the first major ethnographic study to examine the work and writing of minority intellectuals in the imagining of post-socialist futures. His more recent research engages with questions of border ecologies, bio-politics, activism and advocacy in labor, and migrant education rights. He has published key essays on the transnational and media dimensions of anti-dam protest in southwest China; on global environmental NGOs and the privatization of nature; on self-immolation among Tibetans; on transnational activism directed at Apple and the companies that source its supply chain; and on the emerging field of global media ecologies. He is the co-editor of Ghost Protocols: Development and Displacement in Global China (Duke University Press, 2016) and is currently working on two book projects: Migrant Futures: Education and Labor in Global China and Black Lung: An Ethnography of Dust, the latter a collaborative project with former students, miners, and labor activists in China.

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  • M. Giovanna Merli

    Professor of Public Policy, Sociology, and Global Health, Duke University

    Bio

    M. Giovanna Merli is Professor of Public Policy, Sociology and Global Health at Duke University, Director of the NIH-funded Duke Population Research Center, and a member of the Duke Global Health Institute. She holds a BA in China Studies from the University of Venice, an MA in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and a PhD in Demography from the University of Pennsylvania (1996). Substantively, her research has focused on a range of population and health issues in developing countries that intersect frontline public policy, such as the role of China’s population control program in lowering fertility preferences and fertility rates in China, the social and behavioral determinants of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in China and Sub-Saharan Africa and, more recently, Chinese international migrants’ motivations for migration and their assimilation processes at destination in the United States, Africa, and Europe. A significant component of her research has been devoted to data collection: the design and conduct of surveys of sexual behavior and ego-centric sexual networks, the conduct and evaluation of innovative network-based sampling approaches to recruit samples of hidden and rare populations such as those at risk of HIV/STDs as well as migrants, and the implications of the political and social context of data collection for the validity of the information collected in social surveys. Her research has been funded by multiple NIH grants and published in the top U.S. and European outlets of demography, sociology, China studies and public health. She is serving and has served as a permanent or ad-hoc member of many review panels for the NIH.

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  • Denis Simon, ex officio

    Executive Vice Chancellor, Duke Kunshan University

    Bio

    Denis Simon is Executive Vice Chancellor of Duke Kunshan University. Dr. Simon joined the university from Arizona State University, where he served as senior adviser to the president for China-related strategic initiatives, executive director of the University Design Institute, and Foundation Professor of Contemporary Chinese Affairs in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

    Dr. Simon previously held international affairs leadership positions and faculty appointments at several universities in the United States and China. An expert on the role of science and technology in international relations, he also has extensive private sector experience, having held China-based leadership roles at both Monitor Consulting Group and Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). He has written and lectured widely regarding innovation, high technology development, foreign investment and corporate strategy in the Pacific-Rim and is frequently quoted in the Western and Asian business press regarding commercial and technology trends in China, Hong Kong and the Asia-Pacific region.

    Having first visited Asia in 1976 and the China mainland in 1981, Dr. Simon has developed an extensive network of professional relationships throughout business, government, and academia in the region. A member of the editorial boards of Chinese Management Studies and the Journal of Science and Technology Policy in China, he also has served as a senior adviser to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on technology and innovation matters related to China. He is a member of the American Experts Group within the U.S.-China Innovation Dialogue organized by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House. In 2006, he received the China National Friendship Award from former Premier Wen Jiabao, China’s highest form of recognition for foreign experts.

    Dr. Simon received his BA in Asian Studies from the State University of New York and his MA in Asian Studies and PhD in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley (1980).

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