Xiaohong Xu's research agenda centers on how politics and culture shape one another through organizational and institutional mechanisms in transformational historical contexts. He currently focuses on modern China’s politics in relation to global change.
His dissertation approaches the Chinese Revolution as an organizational revolution in which the organizing principles in civil society, party politics and state institutions were all transformed. What was central to the revolutionary process was revolutionaries’ search for organizational models and innovations to make “new men” and new politics. He examines critical junctures in the Revolution from the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (revised and resubmitted to American Sociological Review), through the rise of Mao’s charismatic leadership (article in preparation), to the Cultural Revolution (under review at Theory and Society). These critical junctures were turning points at which intense debates and struggle over fundamental social organizational principles were taking place. This study not only intends to engage contemporary sociological scholarship on revolution, organization, and culture, but also revisits major theoretical questions in classical social sciences, such as theories of revolutionary agency in the Marxist tradition and charisma and group ethos in Weberian sociology.
In his next project, he will explore the institutional foundation of authoritarian resilience in post-Tiananmen China. He plans to examine the post-1989 transformation of key cultural institutions (shiye danwei), which played central role in the Tiananmen upheaval, and to ask why the political rupture in 1989 gave way to what has since been remarkable political resilience.
He has also published on cultural analysis of state formation (with Philip Gorski) and the making of collective memory in revolutionary politics (with Lyn Spillman).
Education: B.A. Sociology, (Peking University); M.A. Sociology (University of Notre Dame).