Abigail Coplin’s research is situated in political sociology, economic sociology, and science and technology studies. It examines the entanglement—and coproduction of—science, politics, and nationalism in contemporary China, and exposes mechanisms by which non-democratic states contend with experts and incorporate expertise into their governance schemes and legitimacy claims. Her various projects demonstrate that while the Chinese Communist Party-state (CCP) seeks to harness science and technology as a legitimizing ideology and economic driver, semi-incorporating them within the state also gives rise to new, often unintended, dynamics that the party-state must address.
Abigail’s book project, “Domesticating Biotechnological Innovation: Science, Market, and the State in Post-Socialist China,” demonstrates how these interactional dynamics and legitimacy struggles drive China’s distinctive trajectory of knowledge-economy development. Specifically, she analyzes China’s agrobiotechnology sector, an industry that is both deeply significant, economically and politically, to the Chinese party-state and highly contentious in Chinese society. Drawing on extensive mixed method qualitative fieldwork, Abigail shows how China’s efforts to “domesticate” GM-technology center on deploying nationalist ideologies to reframe social anxieties around the technology as a struggle between China and foreign interests. This nationalist frame functions as the crucial logic organizing relations among science, state, and market, and thus sets China on a path of knowledge-economy development divergent from advanced, liberal democracies. Moreover, this institution-building principle structures each tier of China’s agrobiotech project: the nationalist dynamics of the sector; the emergence of unique commercial/academic organizational forms; the career trajectories of actors in the industry; the type of technology developed; and even the contours of social criticism leveled against this technology.
In addition to working on her book project, Abigail will also be teaching “State-Society Relations in Post-Socialist China” in spring 2018. In her minimal free time, Abigail is an avid sailor and aspiring molecular gastronomist.
Dominik Wallner has degrees Japanese Studies and Classical Indology. In his dissertation, The oral epic tradition of the Ainu: Heroic Epics (yukar) and God Songs (kamuy yukar), he describes two major genres of the oral literature of the Ainu in Japan, which share many characteristic features, e.g. a metric language, a particular “literary” style, special personal verb forms for the first person, or the usage of oral epic formulas and themes. Main factors of the discussion are the contents and topics of the stories presented by the two genre-specific formats, the main protagonists and distinguishing characteristics. Additionally, a focus lies on the spatial configurations established in the two genres. Dominik Wallner has studied a broad range of languages from Japanese and Ainu to Sanskrit, Ancient Tamil and different Native languages in North America. Beneath his interest in Japanese literature of the Edo and Meiji periods and in Ainu language and literature, he is also interested in Indigenous languages and literature in general and the preservation and revitalization of endangered languages.