Assistant Professor of Political Science and Asian and Asian American Studies
Meina Cai is well on her way to establishing a national and international reputation within the interdisciplinary field of Asian studies. She has successfully organized a workshop series at Harvard focused on land politics and land reform; this particular initiative brings together senior and emergent scholars in a manner that accesses her previous affiliation (as a Fairbanks fellow) while building further connections between the department, the Institute, and the larger scholarly community. She has been invited to give high profile talks in Hong Kong; this enhances the reputation of the unit, the department, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In a more local vein, she worked tirelessly (with the other Institute faculty) on a revised mission/vision for the Institute that made clearer its expansion into Asian and Asian American Studies.
Professor Cai led the discussion on a high-profile panel with Professor Zheng (AAASI faculty affiliate in the Department of Political Science) that featured former ambassador to China Paul Speltz, a University of Connecticut alumnus. This event was significant in establishing a connection between the Institute, the department, the Office of Global Affairs, and the School of Business.
In 2014, Professor Cai worked closely with the Institute to develop workshops that brought Asia focused scholars to UConn. A highlight of her efforts took place at the New England Association for Asian Studies conference (NEAAS) that the University of Connecticut hosted at its Storrs Campus in October. She organized the standing-room only panel on Land and Development in China that showcased her own ground-breaking research “State, Society, and Rural Development: The Political Economy of Land-Grab Compensation in China” and those of her equally forward-thinking co-presenters: Julia Chuang (Brown University), “Urbanization Through Dispossession: Survival and Stratification in China’s New Townships”; Jia-Ching Chen (Brown University), “China’s Environmental State: Rural Land Enclosures and the Construction of Ecological Resources”; and Nick R. Smith (Harvard University), “Rural China’s Unfunded Mandate: Land Collectivization, Land Financialization, and the Future of Rural Development”.
As per her previous appointment as a postdoctoral fellow, Professor Cai will have the opportunity to work with Harvard University Press vis-à-vis the publication of her manuscript. Notwithstanding this previously established connection, she has consistently worked to develop this project, reframed it considerably and is drafting new chapters. The need to re-envision the project has prompted her to think more concretely about data collection, and consequently secured additional funding to support an innovative and expansive survey focused on development, political economy, and institutional change in China. The survey, which involves 1000 villagers in 100 villages in eight counties and four provinces is the first of its kind. Approved based on the impact such a study would have on the field (particularly Asian Studies) and its capaciousness (with regard to who would be surveyed), Dr. Cai was awarded an additional $10,000 to fund this initiative.