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Susan McCarthy                        

Howley 303
(401) 865-2626


About me  

     Among the courses I teach are Comparative Politics, Comparative Asian Politics & Government, Chinese Politics, and a seminar on the Global Politics of Religion.  I particularly enjoy introducing students to the politics of countries that for most of them are very foreign, and which are organized in ways quite different from American politics. As a comparativist, I encourage students to explore the similarities as well as the differences between politics as conducted in China or South Korea or India and politics in the U.S. . Although learning about the politics of other countries is a goal in its own right, I firmly believe that the study of other political systems, values, practices, and ideologies can deepen our understanding of our own system.

     I am very fortunate that my teaching interests dovetail with my scholarship. My research focuses primarily on contemporary China, in particular the politics of ethnicity and religion in China. As China is a one-party Communist state, such politics do not take the form of open, competitive electoral contestation.  Yet people in China still try to influence officials, policies and their communities through a range of strategies and behaviors. For example, my book Communist Multiculturalism: Ethnic Revival in Southwest China analyzes how members of China’s minority nationalities have used opportunities created by post-Mao reforms to promote cultural and religious revival in their communities. My current project examines how Chinese faith-based charities and foundations allow believers to resist restrictions on religion while simultaneously serving society in ways that the government approves. By linking social service with faith, these charities create new venues for and modes of religious practice beyond those approved by the party-state. Since these groups’ charitable endeavors are helping to construct the “harmonious society,” party-state officials often give tacit or even overt support for their activities. My research thus sheds light on the ways people living under authoritarian regimes navigate and circumvent restrictions despite the lack of formal civil rights and protections.  


M.A. & Ph.D. – University of California, Berkeley

B.A. – Whitman College

Selected Publications

“Serving Society, Repurposing the State: Religion and Resistance in China,” The China Journal, no. 70 (July 2013), pp. 48-72.

“Economic Development and the Buddhist-Industrial Complex of Xishuangbanna,” in Faiths on Display: Religion, Tourism, and the Chinese State, eds. Tim Oakes and Donald S. Sutton (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010), pp. 157-182.

Communist Multiculturalism: Ethnic Revival in Southwest China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009).

“If Allah Wills It: Integration, Isolation, and Muslim Authenticity in Yunnan Province in China,” Religion, State & Society, vol. 33, no. 2 (June 2005), pp. 121-136.

​Link to my c.v. here.​ 

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