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Prof Cheris S C Chan

Associate Professor

9.06, 9/F., The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus

3917 4341

HKU Scholars Hub
Personal Website
Personal Website
Prof Cheris S C Chan
  • Cheris Chan received her PhD in sociology from Northwestern University. Before joining HKU, she was an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh. She was also a fellow at the Summer Institute on Economy and Society in the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and a recipient of a global fellowship from the International Institute at UCLA.

    Her writings have appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, British Journal of Sociology, Theory and Society, Social Psychology Quarterly, International Sociology, China Quarterly, and Modern China among others. She has won a number of article and book awards, such as Best Scholarly Publication by an International Scholar Award, Best Scholarly Article Award, Best Book on Globalization Award, and Book Award for books in Asian Studies; and also received Honorable Mentions from the Viviana Zelizer Distinguished Scholarship Award and Mary Douglas Best Book. She was also awarded the Humanities and Social Sciences Prestigious Fellowship by the Research Grant Council in Hong Kong in recognition of her outstanding scholarship.

    Chan’s award-winning book, Marketing Death: Culture and the Making of a Life Insurance Market in China, was based on extensive ethnographic research. In this book, Chan analyzed the role of culture in shaping the trajectory and features of a new market. She detailed how the Chinese cultural taboo on discussing premature death affected the organizational strategies of transnational and domestic life insurance firms. This project was subsequently expanded to include Hong Kong and Taiwan’s markets for a comparative analysis, examining how culture and the local state shaped transnational corporations’ business strategies together.

    Her second large project is on hospital care and doctor–patient relationships in urban China. She examined the cultural and institutional underpinnings of trust between doctors and patients, and published articles on the moral economy of informal payment and social network in gaining access to hospital care. She has been writing about the tension between doctors and patients, and comparing their informal exchanges in China and Taiwan.

    Chan’s current project, entitled “Quantifying Morality: Socio-Cultural Implications of the Social Credit System in China,” investigates how socially desirable behaviors are defined, classified, evaluated, and negotiated in urban and rural China. It documents the design and implementation of the Chinese social credit system, and analyzes the influence of big data and algorithms as well as the classification practices on individuals and local communities.

    Chan served as Editor of Economic Sociology: Perspectives and Conversations, published by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, in 2021-22; and co-Editor of Special Issue on Ethnography in the age of Covid-19, published in Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa (Italian journal of Ethnography and Qualitative Research) in 2020.

  • PhD Sociology
    Northwestern University

    MPhil Sociology
    The Chinese University of Hong Kong

    BSW Social Work
    The University of Hong Kong

    • Cultural sociology

    • Economic sociology

    • Healthcare

    • Globalization

    • New social movements

    • Sociocultural changes in China

    • Qualitative research methods

    • Hospital care in urban China

    • Social Credit System in China

  • Honorable Mention for the W. Richard Scott Award for Distinguished Scholarship, American Sociological Association’s Section on Organizations, Occupations, and Work, 2013.

    Honorable Mention for Mary Douglas Prize for Best Book in the Sociology of Culture, American Sociological Association’s Section on Culture, 2013.

    Book Award for books in Asian Studies, American Sociological Association’s Section on Asia and Asian America, 2013.

    Best Book on Globalization Award, the Global Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2012.

    Honorable Mention for Viviana Zelizer Distinguished Scholarship Award, American Sociology Association’s Section on Economic Sociology, 2011.

    Research Output Prize for the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Hong Kong’s Outstanding Researcher Awards Scheme, 2009-2010.

    Best Scholarly Article Award, American Sociology Association’s Section on Global and Transnational Sociology, 2011.

    Best Scholarly Publication by an International Scholar Award, American Sociology Association’s Section on Global and Transnational Sociology, 2011.

  • 2022. “Working without Wages: Network Structure and Migrant Construction Workers’ Protests in China.” The China Quarterly 252:1140-1161 (DOI: 10.1017/S0305741022000807) (co-authored with Wei Haitao).

    2021. “Anti-Activism and Its Impact on Civil Society in Hong Kong: A Case Study of the Anti-Falun Gong Campaign.Modern China 47(6):765-794 (co-authored with Andrew Junker)

    2020. “Ethnography in Calamitous Times.Etnografia E Ricerca Qualitativa (August 2020): 175-184 (co-authored with Paul Joosse, Sylvia Martin, and Xiaoli Tian).

    2018. “A Market of Distrust: Toward a Cultural Sociology of Unofficial Exchanges between Patients and Doctors in China.” Theory and Society 47(6):737-772 (co-authored with Zelin Yao).

    2018. “Mistrust of Physicians in China: Society, Institution, and Interaction as Root Causes.” Developing World Bioethics 18:16-25.

    2018. “For Life or Death: Local Culture and State in Shaping Life Insurance Markets in Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.” Asia Review.

    2016. “The Hippocratic Dilemmas: Guanxi and Professional Work in Hospital Care in China,” China Perspectives No.2016(4):19-27 (co-authored with Longwen Fu).

    *A French version of the article is published in Perspectives Chinoises No.2016(4):19-27.

    2016. “Rebuilding Patient-Physician Trust in China.” The Lancet 388:755. (co-authored with Joseph D. Tucker, Bonnie Wong, Jing-Bao Nie, Arthur Kleinman, and the Patient-Physician Trust Team).

    2014. “Decoding Localization: A Comparison of Two Transnational Life Insurance Firms in China.” Pp.189-200 in Gili S. Drior, Markus A. Hollerer, and Pater Walgenbach (eds.) Global Themes and Local Variations in Organization and Management: Perspectives on Glocalization. New York: Routledge.

    2013. “Doing Ideology amid a Crisis: Collective Actions and Discourses of the Chinese Falun Gong Movement.” Social Psychology Quarterly, 76 (1), 1-24.

    2012. “Culture, State, and Varieties of Capitalism: A Comparative Study of Life Insurance Markets in Hong Kong and Taiwan.” British Journal of Sociology, 63 (1), 97-122.

    2012. Marketing Death: Culture and the Making of a Life Insurance Market in China. New York: Oxford University Press.

    2011. “Divorcing Localization from the Divergent Paradigm: Localization of Chinese Life Insurance Practice and Its ImplicationsInternational Sociology, 26(3), 346-63.

    2009. “Invigorating the Content in Social Embeddedness: An Ethnography of Life Insurance Transactions in ChinaAmerican Journal of Sociology, 115(3), 712-54.

    2009. “Creating a Market in the Presence of Cultural Resistance: The Case of Life Insurance in China.” Theory and Society, 38 (3), 271-305.

    2007. “Honing the Desired Attitude: Ideological Work on Insurance Sales Agents.” Pp.229-46 in Ching Kwan Lee (ed.) Working In China: Ethnograhies of Labor and Workplace Transformation. London: RoutledgeCurzon.

    2006. “Insurance,” in Roland Robertson and Jan Aart Scholte (eds) Encyclopedia of Globalization. New York: Routledge.

    2004. “The Falun Gong in China: A Sociological Perspective.” The China Quarterly 179, 665-683.

    2002. “July 22, 1999 – China Detains Thousands in Falun Gong, a Religious Group.” Pp.3058-3060 in The Great Events in the Twentieth Century, vol.8. CA: Salem Press, 2002.

    2001. “Reenchantment of the Workplace: The Interplay of Religiosity and Rationality.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology, 45, 42-70.

    2000. “The Sacred-Secular Dialectics of the Reenchanted Religious Order – The Lingsu Exo-Esoterics in Hong Kong.” Journal of Contemporary Religion, 15 (1), 45-63.

    See all publications in HKU Scholars Hub →

  • SOCI6011

    1st semester

    Ethnographic research methods

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