Xin Liu's primary research interests concern the condition of life in the contemporary world, with reference to (East) Asia and China and understanding the effects of transnational capital and capitalism in the transformation of (East) Asian societies. Among his research questions are the Chinese modernizing process and its relevance to the discussion of modernity in anthropology; the problem of agency and/or subjectivity in social theory; the practice of everyday (business) life (in China and other Asian societies); the urban question in and of China; time, memory and different ways of being in history; the nature of narrative and its function in the configuration of our senses of self and belonging; the problem of media and imagery; the ideology of science in East Asia and, in particular, in today's China.
Today the discipline faces a different task, for which anthropological studies of China may regain a new significance. My work, on the one hand, hopes to contribute to the necessary renovation of an old storehouse of assumption and conception in studying other cultures and, on the other, responds to an urgent need for anthrologicalizing China's emergence onto the global stage. This double endeavor, i.e. renovation of our disciplinary tradition and innovation in our approaching a new leviathan, is an intellectual task of our times when locatable sociohistoric relations are no longer "local" but appropriated according to certain "global" categories, real or imagined. Today's China has become a symptom of the world in which America continues to stand as a powerful symbol. Both the symbol and the symptom await an anthropological deciphering, which means, to my mind, the development of an ethnographic approach to the studies of conceptual formations in and as other histories.
The Mirage of China: Anti-Humanism, Narcissism, and Corporeality of the Contemporary World. New York and London: Berghahn, 2009.
Ziwo de Taxing (The Otherness of Self, trans. S. Chang). Shanghai: Shanghai Century Press, 2005.
New Reflections on Anthropological Studies of (greater) China (ed.). China Research Monograph Series, the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California at Berkeley, 2004.
The Otherness of Self: A Genealogy of the Self in Contemporary China. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002.
In One’s Own Shadow: An Ethnographic Account of the Condition of Post-Reform Rural China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.
China underwent a dramatic social transformation in the last decade of the twentieth century. This powerful ethnographic study of one community focuses on the logic of everyday practice in post-reform rural China.
Today's world is one marked by the signs of digital capitalism and global capitalist expansion, and China is increasingly being integrated into this global system of production and consumption. As a result, China's immediate material impact is now felt almost everywhere in the world; however, the significance and process of this integration are far from understood.
The realities of the social life in China's business practices reveal an increasing divergence from the ideologies of the Chinese state. In this engaging work, Xin Liu examines the Asian economic crisis and, particularly, the rise of China as a major trading power in the region.