A metropolis with a population of about 11 million, Wuhan sits at the crossroads of China. It was here that in the last days of 2019, the first reports of a mysterious new form of pneumonia emerged. Before long, an abrupt and unprecedented lockdown was declared—the first of many such responses to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world.
In this book talk, the author tells the dramatic story of the Wuhan lockdown in the voices of the city’s own people. Using a vast archive of more than 6,000 diaries, the sociologist Guobin Yang vividly depicts how the city coped during the crisis. He analyzes how the state managed—or mismanaged—the lockdown and explores how Wuhan’s residents responded by taking on increasingly active roles. Yang demonstrates that citizen engagement—whether public action or the civic inaction of staying at home—was essential in the effort to fight the pandemic.
The book features compelling stories of citizens and civic groups in their struggle against COVID-19: physicians, patients, volunteers, government officials, feminist organizers, social media commentators, and even aunties loudly swearing at party officials. These snapshots from the lockdown capture China at a critical moment, revealing the intricacies of politics, citizenship, morality, community, and digital technology.
About the Speaker:
Guobin Yang is the Grace Lee Boggs Professor of Communication and Sociology at the Annenberg School for Communication and the Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs the Center on Digital Culture and Society and serves as deputy director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China. His previous Columbia University Press books are The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China (2016) and The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online (2009).
Moderator: Qin Gao, Professor and Director of China Center for Social Policy, Columbia School of Social Work