I am a sociocultural anthropologist interested in the processes of social and cultural change. My research combines the tools of social network analysis with the study of human cognition to understand the interrelations between cultural models that influence network structures and network positions that impact the development of attitudes and perceptions. I apply this approach to all my research interests in the subfields of economic anthropology, legal anthropology, linguistic anthropology, ethnicity and migration studies, and local responses to environmental hazards. My geographic expertise is East Asia, in particular mainland China.
An earlier research project studied the effects of social networks and cognition on the likelihood of immigrant integration, specifically for affluent migrants from Taiwan to Southern California. NSF funded field work in China’s Hebei province allowed me to compare the effects of the reformed Chinese legal system on the changing nature of social relationships and cultural perceptions of fairness and justice among rural and urban populations. Recently I extended my research program to Africa studying the influence of increasing interactions between Chinese migrants and Namibian traders on local cultural practices and material culture in Namibia. In addition, I developed research proposals that apply the study of social networks in combination with social cognition to local issues of sea level rise and climate change awareness among residents of Eastern North Carolina. Funding permitted, I will direct a field school for social science students collecting and analyzing qualitative and quantitative data on local perceptions of sea level rise and the networks of informal opinion leaders in the local discussions of climate change evaluation.