Virtual Book Launch

Book Talk | The Wuhan Lockdown

01/31 Monday | 6pm

RSVP is required. Please RSVP here.

NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to a book talk for The Wuhan Lockdown featuring the author Guobin Yang in conversation with Eric Klinenberg, Lily Chumley, and Ian Johnson.

A metropolis with a population of about 11 million, Wuhan sits at the crossroads of China. It was here that in the last days of 2019, the first reports of a mysterious new form of pneumonia emerged. Before long, an abrupt and unprecedented lockdown was declared—the first of many such responses to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world.

This book tells the dramatic story of the Wuhan lockdown in the voices of the city’s own people. Using a vast archive of more than 6,000 diaries, the sociologist Guobin Yang vividly depicts how the city coped during the crisis. He analyzes how the state managed—or mismanaged—the lockdown and explores how Wuhan’s residents responded by taking on increasingly active roles. Yang demonstrates that citizen engagement—whether public action or the civic inaction of staying at home—was essential in the effort to fight the pandemic. The book features compelling stories of citizens and civic groups in their struggle against COVID-19: physicians, patients, volunteers, government officials, feminist organizers, social media commentators, and even aunties loudly swearing at party officials. These snapshots from the lockdown capture China at a critical moment, revealing the intricacies of politics, citizenship, morality, community, and digital technology. Presenting the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people, The Wuhan Lockdown is an unparalleled account of the first moments of the crisis that would define the age.

Guobin Yang is the Grace Lee Boggs Professor of Communication and Sociology at the Annenberg School for Communication and Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is the Director of the Center on Digital Culture and Society, Interim Director of the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication, and Deputy Director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China. He is also a faculty member in the Graduate Group in History, the Graduate Group in East Asian Languages and Cultures, the Graduate Group in International Studies (Lauder Institute), the Center for East Asian Studies, and an affiliated faculty in the Asian American Studies Program. He is the author of the award-winning The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online (Columbia University Press, 2009) and The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China (Columbia University Press, 2016). His 2-volume Dragon-Carving and the Literary Mind (Library of Chinese Classics, 2003) is an annotated English translation of the 6th-century Chinese classic of rhetoric and literary theory Wenxin Diaolong. His new book The Wuhan Lockdown is forthcoming with Columbia University Press.

Eric Klinenberg is Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. He is the author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life (Crown, 2018), Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (The Penguin Press, 2012), Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media (Metropolitan Books, 2007), and Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2002), as well as the editor of Cultural Production in a Digital Age, co-editor of Antidemocracy in America (Columbia University Press, 2019), and co-author, with Aziz Ansari, of the New York Times #1 bestseller Modern Romance (The Penguin Press, 2015). His scholarly work has been published in journals including the American Sociological Review, Theory and Society, and Ethnography, and he has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and This American Life.

Lily Chumley is an Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at the Steinhardt School at NYU. Lily is also an anthropologist, specializing in semiotics and economic anthropology. She is author of Practicing Creativity: Art School and Culture Work in Post-socialist China (Princeton, 2016). At IPK she co-organizes the OIKOS working group.

Ian Johnson is Stephen A. Schwarzman senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). An expert on Chinese politics, society, and religion, he is the author of The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao, Wild Grass: Three Stories of Change in Modern China, and A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Rise of the Muslim the West. Johnson is a contributor to the CFR blog Asia Unbound and a frequent contributor to media outlets in the United States. He is currently writing a book about how history is used to legitimize and challenge Communist Party rule in China and closely follows China’s efforts to bolster its soft power around the globe. Johnson joined CFR in 2021 after a long career in journalism, during which he won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of China. He first went to China as a student in Beijing from 1984 to 1985 and then studied in Taipei from 1986 to 1988. He later worked as a newspaper correspondent in China, from 1994 to 1996 with Baltimore’s the Sun and from 1997 to 2001 with the Wall Street Journal, where he covered macro economics, China’s World Trade Organization accession, and social issues.

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