I am a political sociologist studying various forms of transnational rules, organizations and practices. The theoretical commitment underlying much of my work is to bridge the gap between organizational studies and institutional theory, on the one hand, and comparative politics and international relations studies, on the other. Across the three empirical areas of civic action, health, and development, I show how technocratic governance emerges as an institutional model and how it alternately sustains, disrupts, and transforms domination and resistance.
My first line of research examines in what ways and with what consequences transnational institutions shape the conflict between local communities and strong states. One key insight of my research is multiple and often contradictory aspects of transnational interventions. This paradox provides the core problematic of my book project, Side Effects: The Transnational Doing and Undoing of AIDS Politics in China. Throughout the 2000s, transnational health organizations led a rapid growth in AIDS activism. After investing almost 1 billion USD in China, however, transnational AIDS institutions inadvertently created a “civil society” where only urban gay activists were identified as agents for change.
My second line of research turns to the changing causal relations between institutional processes and individual behaviors by analyzing China’s adopting social health insurance reform—a prevalent tool adopted in the Global South. In contrast to much scholarship, I find that increasing health insurance coverage alone cannot improve equity in medical care utilization. Instead, local cultural discourse structuring illness/health as well as quality of life facilitated or hindered elders’ health seeking.
While these projects have linked macro- and micro-level analyses, my ongoing and early-stage research projects focus on meso-level organizational processes at the intersection of capital, technology and politics. This stream includes one cross-national collaborative study to identify global trends in public sectors (such as the rise of evaluation/ranking/certification, digitalization, marketization, etc.) and examine how nonprofit organizations in five global cities respond to those trends when the world is at a crossroad of nationalism vs. globalization. (https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/research/civic-life-of-cities-lab/)
Yan Long. Side Effects: The Transnational Doing and Undoing of AIDS Politics in China. New York: Oxford University Press (Forthcoming).
Yan Long. 2018. “The Contradictory Impact of Transnational AIDS Institutions on State Repression in China, 1989-2012.” American Journal of Sociology 124 (2)
Yan Long and Lydia Li. 2015. “’How Would We Deserve Better?’ Rural-Urban Dichotomy in Health-Seeking for the Chronically Ill Elderly in China.” Qualitative Health Research 7: 1-16.