Research interests: law, sociology, political sociology, law and society, cultural sociology, economic sociology.

Ya-wen Lei is Assistant Professor of Sociology, having previously been a Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. Professor Lei grew up in Taipei, Taiwan, graduating from her undergraduate studies at the National Taiwan University. Trained in both law and sociology, she holds a J.S.D. from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan.

With its diverse mix of historical-comparative, qualitative, and quantitative methods, Professor Lei’s research lies at the intersection of political sociology, law and society, cultural sociology, and economic sociology.

From the Fairbank Blog:

opens in a new windowIdeological Struggles and China’s Contentious Public Sphere
Ya-Wen Lei, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, maps connections among top Chinese social media leaders to show how online public dialogue does not always adhere to government ideology.

opens in a new windowChallenges Ahead for the DPP in Taiwan
Ya-Wen Lei, Assistant Professor at Harvard’s Department of Sociology, examines the political environment inherited by Taiwan’s opposition DPP.

From the Fairbank Podcast: 




opens in a new windowThe Contentious Public Sphere: Law, Media and Authoritarian Rule in China (Princeton University Press, November, 2017)


Ya-Wen Lei. 2016 "Freeing the Press: How Field Environment Explains Critical News Reporting in China" (122 American Journal of Sociology 1: 1-49, Lead Article). 2017 Best Research Paper Award from the Asia and Asian American Section of the American Sociological Association. 2017 CITAMS Paper Award Honorable mention, Communication, Information, Technologies, and Media Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association

Ya-Wen Lei & Daniel Xiaodan Zhou, 2015 "Contesting Legality in Authoritarian Contexts: Food Safety, Rule of Law and China's Networked Public Sphere" (49 Law & Society Review 3: 557-593, Lead Article )

Ya-Wen Lei & Daniel Xiaodan Zhou,2015 "Embedding Law into Politics in China’s Networked Public Sphere" (The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China, Jacques deLisle, Avery Goldstein, and Guobin Yang, eds., University of Pennsylvania Press)

Ya-Wen Lei. 2011. "The Political Consequences of the Rise of the Internet: Political Beliefs and Practices of Chinese Netizens." Political Communication 28:291-322 * Winner of the First Prize in the Graduate Student Paper Competition of the 37th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy.

Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies