Professor Xiaohong Xu, sociologist of history, politics, culture, political economy, and China, passed away on December 12, 2023 at Angela Hospice near his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, after a long struggle with cancer. He was 45 years old.
Professor Xu’s brilliance, originality, and adventurous intellectual spirit shined through his work. With erudition and curiosity that were only matched by his humility and kindness, Xu dedicated his life to developing an innovative cultural framework that examined how revolutionary vanguards arise and create historical change. His award-winning, pathbreaking work about the twentieth-century Chinese Revolution has been published on some of his discipline’s most central stages. Xu’s still unpublished work goes as far as arguing that the Chinese Cultural Revolution created the conditions for the country’s subsequent turns to neoliberalism and authoritarianism. His writing was bold and courageous, and so was his approach to public intellectual life. He appeared in numerous panels on contemporary China, wrote about current issues in public forums, and marched with pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong during the turbulent spring and summer of 2019. A community builder, Xu co-founded THiS (Theory, History, and Society)—a platform promoting scholarly conversations across the Pacific. His gentle spirit touched every person who met him. His ambitious research program will have a lasting impact on future scholars of culture, revolution, comparative-historical sociology, and social theory.
Professor Xu was born in a rural village near the city of Quzhou in the Zhejiang Province of Southeastern China. His father was a farmer, and his mother was a village tailor. He left the village at the age of twelve for a middle school in the county town, sleeping on a bunkbed in a room shared with 20 other boys. He visited home once every week or two, bringing back to school only rice, steamed buns, and pickles as food. He recalled absolutely no self-pity, but felt carefree joy in exploring the world around him and expanding his knowledge.
Attending the best high school in Quzhou was Xiaohong’s first city experience. At the age of eighteen, he went to the capital city to study chemistry at Peking University—China’s flagship higher-education institution. There, he was drawn toward the social sciences. Xu immersed himself in the thriving avant-garde cultural scene of Beijing in that period, working as an assistant editor at the journal China Scholarship, and participating in critical theory circles on and off campus. He came to the U.S. in 2003 to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Notre Dame, then transferred to Yale University where he earned his Ph.D. in sociology in 2014. Upon graduation, Xu moved back to Asia as an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore and subsequently to Lingnan University in Hong Kong. He returned to the U.S. to join the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 2019, as an assistant professor in a joint position in the Department of Sociology and the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, where he served as Associate Director for the last three months of his life.
Xiaohong will be remembered for his infinite generosity and dedication to critical inquiry and to nurturing the next generation of scholars. His career and his life were kindled by a boundless passion for knowledge and ideas, and his bonhomie and far-reaching impact are evident in the hundreds of letters and messages sent to him from across the sociological discipline and beyond during his last weeks of life.
Professor Xiaohong Xu is survived by his wife Lang Chen, nine-year-old daughter Aubree Xu, mother Yanxiang Fu, father Huomu Xu, and two brothers Liming Xu and Xiaobin Xu. He will be forever missed by them and by numerous loving friends, colleagues, and students.
徐晓宏教授, 一位杰出的历史、政治、文化、政治经济和中国研究的社会学家，在与癌症长期斗争后，于2023年12月12日在密歇根州安娜堡家附近的临终关怀医院去世，时年45岁。他生前是美国密西根大学社会与中国研究助理教授（2019-2023）与密大国际研究院的李侃如－罗睿驰中国研究中心副主任 （2023）。他是中国改革开放年代成长起来、2000年以后出国求学一代中的杰出代表,也是一位友善慷慨的朋友，忠诚的丈夫和慈爱父亲。
众所周知，徐教授才华横溢、思想独创、富有想象力；而他的博学和好奇心与他的善良和热情相得益彰。在过去二十年里，他致力于创建一个崭新的文化分析框架，以比较历史研究为锐器，探讨二十世纪中国革命、社会变迁和政治经济的重大议题。徐教授多篇开创性研究论文发表在American Sociological Review等社会学和历史学的知名英文期刊，并获得美国社会学学会多个论文奖项。在他生命的最后三个月，徐教授还坚持修改发表了两篇重要的学术论文。他雄心勃勃的著述，将对比较历史社会学、文化研究和社会理论产生持久的影响。
在学术研究之外，徐教授也是严肃介入公共事务的知识分子，热情投入有关当代议题的讨论，在公共论坛上撰文评论时事，并参与了太平洋两岸的数次社会运动。作为学术共同体的积极建设者，徐教授与其他几位社会学家、历史学家共同创办了时间社 （THiS: thisoc.net），致力于推动中英文学术界的跨学科对话和沟通。他不但规划了时间社的发展方向，还一直亲力亲为地参与组织相关活动。晓宏的温和、睿智与勤奋打动每一个与他相识的人，为他的朋友们所爱戴。
To assure that the legacy of Xiaohong Xu's work and contributions continues to make an impact for future generations, the Department of Sociology has established the Xiaohong Xu Memorial Support Endowment Fund to provide support to international students and/or students studying Chinese society in the sociology doctoral program. We invite you to contribute.