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Professor Christian Sorace Receives Fulbright for Research in Mongolia

Assistant Professor of Political Science Christian Sorace has been selected for a Fulbright award to spend six months in Mongolia on a research project titled “Electoral Urbanization.”

Sorace, who joined the Colorado College faculty in 2017, will research how democratic elections shape urban redevelopment projects in post-socialist Mongolia. “I will focus on the demolition and redevelopment of the ger districts in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, the name of which derives from the prevalence of gers, which are circular, collapsible felt tents, also known as yurts,” he says. “Despite their name and superficial resemblance to slums, ger districts are socio-economically diverse places, comprised of houses, businesses, and mixed-use plots of land; what defines them is the absence of heat, plumbing, and sewage infrastructure.”

Sorace will spend Spring 2022 in Mongolia, researching the question: “What factors are responsible for the uneven results of ger district redevelopment?”

“Although the general downturn of the Mongolian economy, which debilitated the construction industry, is in part responsible, my hypothesis is that the temporality and incentives of electoral competition interrupt and directly politicize processes of large-scale urban redevelopment projects,” writes Sorace. “It is a widely held view among ger district residents that construction starts and stops according to electoral rhythms and that newly elected officials have little incentive to complete the projects of their predecessors.”

The second part of his project examines how the fate of urban redevelopment projects influences perceptions of Mongolia’s political system. “Each day on their way to work or dropping their children off at school, ger district residents are confronted with the unfinished urban ruins of redevelopment projects. I hypothesize that erratic, opaque, and uneven urban redevelopment undermine people’s trust in democratic institutions.”

Sorace speaks Chinese fluently and Mongolian at an advanced level, and is the author of “Shaken Authority: China’s Communist Party and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake” (Cornell University Press, 2017), and the co-editor of “Afterlives of Chinese Communism: Political Concepts from Mao to Xi” (Verso/ANU Press 2019) and “Proletarian China: A Century of Chinese Labour” (Verso forthcoming).  His articles have appeared in Comparative Politics, The China Quarterly, The China Journal, Critical Inquiry, Public Culture, and positions: asia critique, among other journals. He also is the editor of the Arts section of the open-access quarterly Made in China.

Among the courses he teaches are Politics of China, Reading Marx in the Time of COVID-19, Utopia and Dystopia,  Power and Everyday Life, and Introduction to Comparative Politics.

Sorace earned a Ph.D. in government from the University of Texas, Austin; an M.A. from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Previously, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Australian National University’s Australian Centre on China in the World.

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