Xiaoping Sun


Xiaoping Sun Profile PictureAssistant Professor 
Ph.D University of California, Santa Cruz
M.A. Liaoning University, China; University of California, Santa Cruz
B.A. Qiqihar University, China

Office: McNally North 231 
Phone: 902-420-5764 
Email: xiaoping.sun@smu.ca

I received an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Liaoning University and a Ph.D. in History from University of California, Santa Cruz. I taught at Beijing Jiaotong University and McMaster University before arriving at Saint Mary’s in 2009. 

My current research project, entitled “Feeding the Nation from the Wilderness: Food, Migration, and Environment on China’s Northeastern Borderland,” examines the historic transformation of Beidahuang (北大荒, the Great Northern Wilderness) from China’s largest concentration of freshwater wetlands in the late 1940s to its largest agribusiness that can feed 10% of the Chinese population in the 2000s. This research will reveal the mutual transformation between the state, humans, and nature resulted from the state mobilized migration to the frontier region in China’s pursuit of national food security and agricultural modernity.


Courses currently and recently offered:

HIST 1222 Introduction to the History of East Asia

HIST 2381 China before 1800

HIST 2372 China since 1800

HIST 2382 China in Revolution, 1800-1949

HIST 2383 China since 1949

HIST 3492 Women in Twentieth Century China

HIST 3416 Love and Family in China

HIST 4571 Engendering China

HIST 4572/6672 Memories of WWII in China and Japan           

ASNT 4400 / HIST 4833 Interdisciplinary Studies: Food in Asia

HIST 4842/6672 Environmental History of China (*New* Winter 2018)

HIST 6695 Graduate Reading Course: Gender in China   (Fall 2009)

HIST 6671 Graduate Reading Course: Gender in China   (Winter 2010)


Current Research 

Feeding the Nation from the Wilderness: Food, Migration, and Environment on China’s Northeastern Borderland


Recent External Grants 

2017, SSHRC Connection Grant (with Dr. Kirrily Freeman and Dr. John Munro), “Textural Turning Point: the Futures of 1944,” workshop, Oct. 5-7, 2017 

2015-17, SSHRC Insight Development Grant, Feeding the Nation from the Wilderness: Food and Identity in Northeast China, 1949-1979.


Recent Publications 

Peer-reviewed book chapter:

“‘War Against the Earth!’—Military Farming in Communist Manchuria, 1949-1975,” in Norman Smith ed., Empire and Environment in the Making of Manchuria, Vancouver:Empire and Environment in the Making of Manchuria UBC Press, 2017: 248-275.


Journal article:

“New Life Meets Real Life: Chinese Women in Nation Building and State Making, 1934-1949,” Frontiers of History in China, 2017, 12(4): 538-565.


Recent conference presentations & invited talks:

2017• “Creating a Socialist Taste: Public Dining Halls in the Formation of Collective Identity,” Fourth Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food: Making Sense of Taste, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, Nov. 17-18, 2017

2017• “Socialist Space Production on China’s Northeastern Border,” workshop “On Edge: China’s Frontiers in a Time of Change,” Switzerland, Oct. 13-14, 2017. (Invited)

2017• “Collective Amnesia about the Great Leap Famine?” workshop “Famine Stories and Survival Legends: Legacies to the Following Generations,” Uppsala University, Sweden, Sept. 28-30, 2017

2017• “Reconfiguring Nature in China’s Pursuit of Food Security,” Canadian Association for Food Studies annual conference, Toronto, May 27-30, 2017

2017• “Studying Chinese History from North American Perspectives,” public lecture, Beijing Normal University Zhuhai (BNUZ), China, June 7, 2017

2017• “The Dilemma between Food Security and Eco Security: the Changing Meanings of Wetland in China,” workshop “Food, Agriculture and Environment in China,” Occidental College, Los Angeles, March 30-31, 2017. (Invited)

2016• “Museum of the Great Northern Wilderness: Remembering Maoist Land Reclamation in 21st-Century China,” History Seminar Series, Saint Mary’s University, Nov. 25, 2016

2016• “Urban Oasis: the Meaning of Eco-Agro Tourism in Northeast China,” XIV World Congress of Rural Sociology, organized by the International Rural Sociology Association, Ryerson University, Toronto, August 10-14, 2016

2016• “The Making of Socialist Farm Workers: Cultivating Affective Attachment to the Great Northern Wilderness,” AAS-in-Asia Conference, organized by the Association for Asian Studies, Kyoto, June 24-27, 2016

2016• “‘We Were Coaxed to Come!’—Localizing Maoist Mobilization through ‘Untold’ Stories,” Canadian Historical Association Annual Meeting, Calgary, May 30-June 1, 2016

2015• “Building Socialist Agricultural Modernity from the Wilderness,” the IUAES (International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences) Inter-Congress: Re-imagining Anthropological and Sociological Boundaries, Bangkok, July 15-17, 2015.

2015• “Creating the Myth of the ‘Wilderness’: A Discursive Analysis of Maoist Land Reclamation in Northeast China,” the Canadian Historical Association annual meeting, Ottawa, June 1-3, 2015.

2014• “‘Please Go to the History Museum!’—Remembering Maoist Land Reclamation in China,” international conference on “School vs. Memory?” organized by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and held by Charles University in Prague, Oct. 9-10, 2014.

2014• “‘War against the Earth!’: Military Farming in Communist Manchuria,” the Stokes Seminar, Dalhousie University, Jan. 24, 2014

2013• “Developing the Great Northern Wilderness” The Manchurian Environment, UBC, May 16-18, 2013  

2012• “Woman-Work in the Northeast During the Civil War,” Conference of the Canadian Asian Studies Association, UQAM, November 2-4, 2012

2009• “What Makes the New Life Woman?: Conflicting Ideals in Women’s New Life MonthlyNew York Conference on Asian Studies, Cornell University, Oct. 9-10, 2009