Past Event

Dramas of Catastrophes: American and Chinese Governments’ Cultural Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

April 14, 2022
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
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Zoom Webinar


Speaker: Bin Xu, Associate Professor of Sociology, Emory University

Moderator: Qin Gao, Professor and Director of China Center for Social Policy, Columbia University

In an ongoing project, Xu examines the American and Chinese governments’ cultural responses to the COVID-19 crisis. “Cultural response,” defined as the governments’ symbolic action to address their citizens’ suffering and death in disasters, is often neglected by scholars and dismissed by public opinion as secondary and insignificant. But Xu argues that governments must win people’s hearts and minds through sympathetic, meaningful words and actions about their reactions, accountability, and visions, in addition to their supplies, funds, and managerial actions. Drawing on the dramaturgical approach and a comparative study, Xu shows how the two governments’ cultural responses have been shaped by their different types of regime, political structures, and particular situations. Xu also intends to develop and extend the dramaturgical approach to disaster management, a topic that has been studied mostly from the managerial and practical perspective in the mainstream paradigm.

Speaker Bio:

Bin Xu is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Emory University. His research interests lie at the intersection of politics and culture, including collective memory, civil society, cultural sociology, and social theory. He is the author of The Politics of Compassion: The Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China (Stanford, 2017), which won the 2018 Best Book Prize for Culture and Honorable Mention for Asia from the American Sociological Association, Chairman Mao’s Children: Generation and the Politics of Memory in China (Cambridge 2021), and The Culture of Democracy: A Sociological Approach to Civil Society (under contract with Polity 2022, forthcoming). His articles have appeared in leading sociological and China studies journals.

This event is part of the 2021-2022 lecture series on “COVID-19 Impacts and Responses in China and Beyond” and is sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and cosponsored by Columbia's China Center for Social Policy. 

Contact Information

Julie Kwan