Jeffrey Weng joins the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center as the Shorenstein Postdoctoral Fellow in Contemporary Asia for the 2020-2021 academic year. His research focuses on the evolution of language, ethnicity, and nationalism in China. At Shorenstein APARC, Weng will continue to publish papers based on his doctoral research while reworking his dissertation into a book manuscript.
Jeffrey's dissertation examined language in the context of Chinese nation-building. Mandarin Chinese was artificially created about a century ago and initially had few speakers. Now, it is the world’s most-spoken language. How did this transition happen? Weng's research shows how the codification of Mandarin was done with the intention to match existing practices closely, but not exactly. Top-down efforts by the state to spread the new language faced enormous difficulties, and ultimately its wide-spread adoption may have been catalyzed more by economic growth and urban migration. By investigating how these monumental social and political changes occurred, Weng’s work deepens the understanding of societal shifts, past and present, in one of the world’s predominant nations, while also contributing more broadly to scholarship on class, the educational reproduction of privilege, and the construction and reconstruction of race, ethnicity, and nation.
He completed his Ph.D. in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. He holds a BA in political science from Yale University, and his work has appeared in the Journal of Asian Studies and Theory and Society.