Member of the Week: Di Wang

Di Wang, PhD

Distinguished Professor and Head, Department of History

University of Macau

Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest?

In recent years, I have focused on my project “Transformation of Urban China: Everyday Life during the Era of Commercialization.” In the recent three decades, nearly all Chinese cities have been rebuilt. The old streets and neighborhoods are almost all gone, and cities been born anew, along with population growth, booming urban development, and the problems of vehicular traffic. By examining these changes, I explore how daily life of Chinese cities—large and small—have been transformed in post-Mao China, and how peoples’ daily life has been affected.

What are you currently teaching? How does your teaching relate to your scholarship?

I am teaching a graduate reading seminar this semester, which deals with the historiography of microhistory and introduces students to the representative works of this scholarship. My recent publications, including The Teahouse under Socialism: The Decline and Renewal of Public Life in Chengdu, 1950-2000 (Cornell University Press, 2018), and Violence and Order on the Chengdu Plain: The Story of a Secret Brotherhood in Rural China, 1939-1949 (Stanford University Press, 2018), have deeply involved microhistory.

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

I have just translated my new book The Teahouse under Socialism into Chinese, which will be published by the Chinese University of Hong Kong Press in 2022. I hope this book can reach a much larger audience in China than its English version.

What advice would you give to students, both undergraduate and graduate, who are interested in urban studies and just starting out their careers?

When my students ask me how they can be more successful in their study and research, I often tell them that learning in the classroom is far not enough, and students should largely depend on reading and fieldwork outside classes. As for the students who are interested in urban studies, they have to go deep inside the city in order to get a better sense of its people, lives, and issues. By so doing, students can enhance their ability to understand the city and to synthesize what they learn from classes.

Member of the Week series co-editor Alec Dawson continues the conversation with Di Wang in this audio interview, with a discussion of about the challenges of writing for both a Chinese and International audience, along with his efforts to document an urban society undergoing rapid change.

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