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Cheris Chan

Dr Cheris S C Chan

Associate Professor

+852 3917 4341

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


Cheris Chan received her PhD in sociology from Northwestern University in 2004. Before joining HKU, she was an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh. She was also a fellow of the Summer Institute on Economy and Society from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and a recipient of a global fellowship from the International Institute of UCLA.

Her writings have appeared in American Journal of Sociology, British Journal of Sociology,Theory and Society, Social Psychology Quarterly, International Sociology, and The China Quarterly among others. Some of her articles have received prizes from the American Sociological Association.

Chan’s first book, Marketing Death: Culture and the Making of a Life Insurance Market in China, won two awards and one honorable mention from the American Sociological Association and from the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Based on extensive ethnographic research, the book analyzes the role of culture in shaping the trajectory and features of a new market. It details how the Chinese cultural taboo on the discussion of premature death affects 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 together shape transnational corporations’ business strategies.

Chan’s current project focuses on hospital care in urban China. Three major themes emerge from her ongoing fieldwork: (1) the moral economy of informal payment and social network in gaining access to quality medical care; (2) doctor-patient relation and the professional authority of physicians in China; (3) the rationalization and legitimacy of Chinese medicine in China.

Curriculum Vitae

Courses taught

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PhD Sociology
Northwestern University

MPhil Sociology
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

BSW Social Work
The University of Hong Kong

Research interests

Cultural sociology
Economic sociology
New social movements
Sociocultural changes in china
Qualitative research methods

Current research

Hospital care in urban China

Honours and recognitions

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.

Selected publications

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

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.

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