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Current research

Thesis Title: "Constructing 'China': Culture and U.S. Think Tank Narratives - A Bourdieusian Investigation"

Key words: Culture, 'American-ness', social construction, Self/Other, Otherness, identity, Bourdieu, practice 'field', 'capital', 'habitus', 'doxa', 'strategising', sociological meso-level, dialecticality, relationality, narratives, think tanks, China policy-research experts, International Relations research and the Bourdieusian socioloical 'turn', U.S., China, in-depth interviews, fieldwork/ethnography, post-structuralism.


Overarching research question: "How and why are social and cultural boundaries of 'American-ness' dialectically drawn by China policy-research experts within U.S. think tank through their social construction of narratives on 'China' as the Other?"

This study investigates the role of culture relating to how China policy-research experts socially construct 'American-ness' through 'China' as the Other. The emprical foundation is comprised of 40 in-depth interviews (average duration: 58 min) with China policy-research experts across 26 internationally leading think tanks in Washington, DC, and New York, USA. Additional methods encompass participant observation, contextuality, triangulation, informal conversation, descriptive statistics/databases, and collection of written material. This multi-method, ethnopgrahic research strategy is coupled with a social constructionist epistemologically driven study, and deploys Bourdieu's pradctice theory as the conceptual/analytical framework (including cross-tabulation and ethnographic/interpretivist contents analysis).

The study is positioned as a sociological meso-level construct and 'social field' where the engagement with Bourdieu is also dialectic in its own right, herein allowing obtained field-data iand the research subjects' 'native categories' to unveil new lines of inquiries as well as to expand and nuance Bourdieu's embedded conceptual "thinking tools" themselves in a "bottom-up" fashion. Furthermore, the study "talks to" the post-structuralist oriented Bourdieusian sociological 'turn' in International Relations research (in particularly, making the non-state, individual level the focal point in addition to the assumptions concerning immateriality innately preceding materiality -within the constructivism research programme), in addition to the specific think tank literature by propogating a third 'school of analysis', i.e. the policy-researchers and conceptualising about their thinking. More broadly, this study provides an important perspective on a key bilateral relationship (U.S.-Sino relations) in U.S. Foreign Policy (and for the world) as well as a prominent category of players in U.S. Politics.

In addition to The University of Warwick Postgraduate Research Scholarship (WPRS) and the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund (SELF), my field-work has generiously been partly funded by the American Politics Group (Political Studies Association, PSA) Travel Award, a departmental grant (PaIS), and Lise and Arnfinn Heje's - Research fund.

(last updated: 23rd Aug 2012)

Professor Stuart Croft
Professor Stuart Croft

Associate Professor Trevor McCrisken