Yan Long is a political sociologist studying various forms of transnational rules, organizations and practices. The theoretical commitment underlying much of her 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, she shows how technocratic governance emerges as an institutional model and how it alternately sustains, disrupts, and transforms domination and resistance.
Her 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 her research is multiple and often contradictory aspects of transnational interventions. This paradox provides the core problematic of her 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.
Her 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, she finds 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.
Currently Yan is conducting research on the politics of COVID-19 in relations to technology and community mobilization in China.