My research interests revolve around the construction of and discourses relating to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the museumification and materialization of China’s historical past, and the uses of heritage and archaeology in nation-building in 20th-century China. As an emerging field of academic research, critical heritage studies takes an interdisciplinary approach to tackling the role of the past in the present, which requires theoretical, historical and social approaches as well as practical application. My research trajectory has thus spanned from heritage and museums themselves to the anthropology of nationalism, cultural memory, space and politics and social history in China. Consequently, my Ph.D. thesis explored the production of archaeological knowledge, the interplay between macro-history and micro-history, and the impact of heritage on contemporary China. For my postdoctoral research I have been looking at the development of museums in China, Mexico and Europe from a comparative perspective. My research sites in China are mainly located in Anyang (Henan Province), Chengdu (Sichuan Province) and Xi’an (Shaan’xi Province), where I did fieldwork in archaeological stations and museums to explore the everyday life of history, heritage and museum making.
I was awarded my Ph.D. in Anthropology from University College London in 2013. My thesis, The Politics of China’s Cultural Heritage on Display: Yin Xu Archaeological Park in the Making, examined the socio-political context behind the construction of China’s archaeological parks. My fieldwork at the Anyang Yinxu archaeological site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in China, documents the event of staging the National Archaeological Park and serves as a point of departure for investigating aspects of heritage conservation and presentation, place making, local perceptions of place, as well as the state discourse on nation-building in the movement towards urbanization and modernity. This research sheds light on how global heritage discourse has been internalized in China and how global heritage policies are challenged at the local level. This doctoral research was supported by the Taiwan Scholarship for Students Studying Abroad, the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, and the University College London Research Project Fund. In 2011, I was a visiting student of the Institute of Philology and History at Academia Sinica in Taipei. In 2012/2014, I was also awarded a fellow of the AAS-SSRC Dissertation Developing Program “Rewriting Asian History, Nationalism, Identity and the Politics of the Past”, for which I proposed to study China through the lens of space, landscape and heritage making.
Currently, I am working towards the transformation of my thesis into a manuscript (will be published by the Critical Heritage Series at Left Coast Press). My goal is to present an ethnography on archaeological and heritage works in China as the place to explore knowledge production and nation-building in contemporary China.