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Tian Xiaoli

Dr Tian Xiaoli

Assistant Professor

+852 3917 5695

9.22, 9/F., The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus


Tian Xiaoli received her PhD in Sociology from The University of Chicago. Her research interests include how preexisting knowledge paradigms and cultural norms influence the way people respond to unexpected transformations of their everyday routines. This interest is reflected in her two main lines of research: cross-cultural transmission of medical knowledge and social interaction.

She recently published a paper on organ-snatching rumors in 19th-century China. In that paper, she argues that anti-missionary rumors that prevailed in nineteenth-century China were fueled by Protestant missionaries’ medical practices in addition to political conflicts. Furthermore, the rumors were framed in spatial concepts. The rumors arose and persisted not because the missionaries deliberately hid information, but rather because the visibility of their daily activities, the accessibility of the space they inhabited and practiced in, and the spatial placement of their living quarters contradicted the cultural norms in nineteenth-century China and therefore prevented the Chinese from acquiring correct information about the missionaries. Based on the revisit of the famous Tianjin Missionary case (天津教案), she concludes that the ambiguity of information that causes rumor is the result of the confrontation between two ways of understanding space.

Continuing these two lines of research, her current research focuses on Traditional Chinese medicine in contemporary China, as well as new media in the Chinese context, including a project on Facebook use in Hong Kong and another one on digital production (especially online literature) in mainland China.

Courses taught


PhD, Sociology
University of Chicago

MPhil, Sociology
Chinese University of Hong Kong

BA Sociology and Economics
Peking University

Research interests

New media
Social interaction
Social studies of science and technology
Medical sociology
Comparative and historical sociology
Information and communication technology
Cultural sociology.

Current research

Traditional Chinese medicine in China and Hong Kong

Internet versus tradition: Mothering and medicine in Hong Kong

Cross-group interaction between mainland and local university students in Hong Kong

Online shopping in China

Honours and recognitions

2016 The Huntington Library Fellowship, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, California, USA.

2009 Student Paper Award, the American Sociological Association, Communication and Information Technologies Section

2008 Social Science Research Paper Competition, the University of Chicago

2008 Honorable Mention for the Graduate Student Paper Award Competition, American Sociological Association, Social Psychology Section

2005 Carl Couch Internet Research Award.

Selected publications

Journal articles:

Tian, Xiaoli. 2017. “Immediate Context, Life Experiences, and Perception: How Do Rural Migrants in Urban China Perceive an Unfair Policy?” Chinese Sociological Review. 49 (2): 138-161. 

Tian, Xiaoli. 2017. “Embodied versus disembodied information: How online artifacts influence offline interpersonal interaction.” Symbolic Interaction. Online first: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/symb.278/full

Tian, Xiaoli and Michael Adorjan. 2016. “Fandom and Coercive Empowerment: The commissioned production of Chinese online literature.” Media, Culture & Society. 38 (6): 881-900. 

Tian, Xiaoli , Daniel A. Menchik (2016). “On Violating One’s Own Privacy: N-adic Utterances and Inadvertent Disclosures in Online Venues.” Studies in Media and Communications, 11: pp. 3 – 30.

Tian, Xiaoli and Yunxue Deng (2015). “Organizational Hierarchy, Deprived Masculinity, and Confrontational Practices: Men Doing Women’s Jobs in a Global Factory.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.

Tian, Xiaoli (2016). “Network Domains in Social Networking Sites: Expectations, Meanings, and Social Capital”. Information, Communication & Society. 19 (2): 188-202.

Tian, Xiaoli. 2015. “Rumor and Secret Space: Organ-Snatching Tales and Medical Missions in Nineteenth-Century China.” Modern China. 41 (2): 197-236.

Menchik, Daniel and Xiaoli Tian. 2008. “Putting Social Context into Text: The Semiotics of Email Interaction.” American Journal of Sociology. 114: 332-70.

Tian, Xiaoli. 2016. “Parasocial interaction in the internet era: a sociological analysis of online literature in China.” Journal of Tsinghua University (Philosophy and Social Sciences). 31 (1): 173-181.

Tian, Xiaoli (with Han Xiaoyan). 2015. “(Immediate Context, Culture, and Selective Attention: The Perceptions of Long-term Petitioners).” Journal of Tsinghua University (Philosophy and Social Sciences). 30 (1): 59-67.

Tian, Xiaoli (with Han Xiaoyan) 2016. “制度、文化、与日常确证——外来移民及其子女的情景性身份认同Institution, Culture, and Corroboration of Everyday Life – Situational Identification of Migrants and their Children in Urban China.” 清华大学学报 (哲学社会科学)Journal of Tsinghua University (Philosophy and Social Sciences). 31(6): 175-182.