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This roundtable considers what it means to conduct ‘critical’ research on Chinese politics and society today. This is a task that is decidedly different from conducting research that is uncritically critical of China. It is also a task that has become both more complicated and more urgent in light of the ambition under president Xi Jinping to cement and augment China’s rise as an ‘information superpower’. This discussion will be of interest to students, researchers, and those from policy, media, and the public who want to understand the possibilities and limits for critical research on China.

Join us for a stimulating roundtable event on Friday 20 October with Hannah Theaker (University of Plymouth), David Stroup (University of Manchester), William A. Callaghan (LSE), Astrid Nordin (King's College London) and chaired by David Tobin (University of Sheffield). 

*This is an in-person event. Refreshments will be provided. Registration is required.


Hannah Theaker is a Lecturer in History and Politics at University of Plymouth. She joined the History and Politics departments in 2021, having previously held the position of Plumer Junior Research Fellow in Oriental Studies at St Anne's College, University of Oxford. Her work delves into the subjects of empire, rebellion, migration, and the co-construction of religion and ethnicity in China’s northwest. She has a particular focus on analyzing the impact of 19th-century state-directed resettlements of Muslims following the Great Northwestern Rebellions, which occurred from 1860 to 1872.

William A. Callahan is a Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His book, "Sensible Politics: Visualizing International Relations," published by Oxford University Press in 2020, has received critical acclaim, winning the Best Book Award in 2022 from the International Political Sociology section of the International Studies Association and being shortlisted for the Susan Strange Best Book Award in 2021 by the British International Studies Association.

Callahan is also an accomplished essayist, with his work, "The Politics of Walls: Barriers, Flows and the Sublime," earning the Review of International Studies' Best Article award in 2018. Additionally, he is a documentary filmmaker, known for works like "Great Walls: Journeys from Ideology to Experience" and "You can see CHINA from here." Callahan is open to PhD applications from students interested in visual IR and the global politics of China.

David Tobin is a Lecturer in East Asian Studies at University of Sheffield. Dr David Tobin joined SEAS in 2021 after working as Hallsworth Research Fellow in the Political Economy of China at the University of Manchester. His work is spread out between Asian Studies and Global IR, using critical theory to frame results of detailed empirical fieldwork on the politics of identity and the everyday. David completed a PhD in Politics at the University of Manchester (2013) following intensive Mandarin language training at Peking University and Xinjiang University. He has lectured in Politics and East Asian Studies at the University of Manchester, University of Glasgow, and the University of Nottingham-Ningbo.

David Stroup is a Lecturer in Chinese Politics at the University of Manchester. He received his doctorate from the University of Oklahoma in August 2017. His current research focuses on how the renegotiation of ethnic boundaries in ethnic Hui Muslim communities in the context of urbanization interacts with China’s state policies on ethnic and religious identification. He is also developing further research on the everyday foundations of populist Islamophobia in China. His areas of specialisation within the field of comparative politics include nationalism and ethnic politics, everyday ethnicity, the politics of authoritarianism, and state-society relations.

Astrid Nordin is Professor and Lau Chair of Chinese International Relations at King’s College London. She also holds the title of Senior Fellow at the Institute for Social Futures and Associate Research Fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. Her research involves developing critical conceptual tools that draw from Chinese and global traditions of thought to address global challenges in relation to China's expanding global role, encompassing topics such as the Belt and Road Initiative, sustainable cities, and practices of censorship and resistance.

At this event

Astrid Nordin

Lau Chair of Chinese International Relations

Event details

King's Building
Strand Campus, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS