Jing Wang, SC Fang professor of Chinese languages and culture and long-time MIT faculty member of Global Studies and Languages and Comparative Media Studies / Writing, died Sunday in Boston of a heart attack.
For decades, Wang has been a leading scholar of the intersection of media and activism in China. After a bachelor’s degree from National Taiwan University, she studied comparative literature at the University of Michigan and then at the University of Massachusetts, where she obtained her doctorate. She continued to focus on literature at Duke University, where she was a professor for 16 years and wrote her first books. The 1992 Stone Story, which received a Joseph Levenson Book Award for Best Book of the Year on Premodern China, explored traditional Chinese literature, but his next book, High Culture Fever: Politics, Aesthetics , and Ideology in Deng’s China (1996), marked a step towards its study of Chinese media more broadly.
His subsequent work, both as an academic and as a nonprofit leader, sought ways to empower local Chinese organizations, especially in the context of digital culture and social media. Although she may have become best known for her book Brand New China on Chinese Advertising and Commercial Culture in 2009, she was also writing and presenting a new project at the time, the nonprofit NGO 2.0. She and collaborators based in China launched it to help local organizers use social media to be agents of change in a country where social media is often seen as suspect. “She was my esteemed mentor and also a great friend,” says Rongting Zhou, a professor at the China University of Science and Technology who came to MIT as a visiting scholar in 2007 and then helped Wang develop NGO2.0 . “She and I have overcome many difficulties and achieved remarkable achievements in China.”
Wang’s shift to an academic look at Chinese activism was reflected in his most recent book, The Other Digital China: Nonconfrontational Activism on the Social Web (2019), which one reviewer called “a way forward. for those in China – and perhaps elsewhere – who want to progress within a totalitarian state. She made readers understand that activists in China are wise actors, who have no choice between total acquiescence or resistance.
She joined the faculty of MIT in 2001, as a professor in the Foreign Languages and Literatures (FL&L) section of the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and quickly found a second home in the Studies section. media comparisons. She was the head of FL&L from 2005 to 2008. The CMS position then became a joint and then principal appointment. She had a profound impact within MIT. Her favorite subject, “Advertising and the Media: Comparative Perspectives,” has enrolled nearly 300 undergraduate and graduate students since Wang developed her in 2002. She has served as an advisor or committee chair for eight master’s theses. CMS, and she served for years as a Chinese minor counselor. And his service on dozens of departmental and institute-level committees has contributed to everything from increasing faculty diversity to the essential smooth running of academic programs.
“Professor Wang was my beloved mentor at CMS – a mentor for academics, entrepreneurship and life,” says Han Su SM ’20, one of Wang’s advisers. “Although I left school, the mentorship I received from Jing will stay with me for the rest of my life. Although Jing has passed away, his wisdom and courage will live with us forever and constantly inspire us to fight for the greater good. Another alumnus of the CMS 2020 master’s program, Iago Bojczuk, wrote in a tribute on Facebook: “I tried to learn as much as I could from her as I navigated the obscure rules of higher school as a as an international student. She often encouraged me to do things differently and not necessarily to go the standard route that seemed obvious. I felt she understood me and the hybrid worldviews and lived experiences that shaped me.
His contributions to MIT – and academia in general – have not gone unnoticed. Wang has received scholarships, grants, and other accolades from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Chinese Ministry of Education, the Ford Foundation, and even his students in the form of the Levitan Award for Excellence in Teaching from MIT. In the nomination letter for the Levitan Prize, a student wrote, “Professor Wang constantly challenges our views and ideologies and makes us think more deeply about Chinese culture and history. She awakened a curiosity for cultural understanding and new perspectives that I have never experienced except abroad and I am so grateful to have this joy for something other than technical engineering.
Beyond that, however, she will be remembered for her concern for others. She welcomed Chinese students to her home every Thanksgiving. She raised funds for an artists travel fund created in memory of her late daughter Candy. And she’s been a professional advocate for so many members of the MIT community. “Jing was an incredible colleague, mentor and friend to so many people,” says media benchmarking professor TL Taylor. “I often think of how she would organize dinners for students, friends and colleagues during the holidays, when people might be alone. His thoughtfulness and generosity was something I deeply admired. Likewise, part of his institutional heritage is as a member of the hiring or promotion committee for media benchmarking / writing colleagues Ian Condry, Paloma Duong and Paul Roquet. Responding to the news of her death, Professor Condry said that “Jing was a model friend and scholar, a force of nature who tackled all projects with integrity, compassion and commitment.”
Professor Emma Teng, Director of MIT Global Languages, had known Wang since Teng herself was a child. She echoed the feelings of others, “Jing was a warm, generous and caring person, fierce in the fight for the causes she believed in and for the less fortunate. She was a dedicated mentor to many of us and cared deeply about social justice for Asian Americans. “
Wang’s personal interests included cooking, Chinese zither, gardening, and spiritual practice of Tibetan Buddhism. She was also deeply devoted to philanthropic causes in China.
Information about a memorial will be shared when available. Those looking for a way to honor Professor Wang’s memory are encouraged to donate to the Candy R. Wei International Travel Endowment Fund, which Wang established in memory of his daughter. Learn more at candywei.org