Xuefei Ren

Xuefei  Ren
  • Associate Professor
  • Department of Sociology
  • PhD, Sociology, University of Chicago 2007
  • 401C Berkey Hall
  • 509 E. Circle Drive
  • East Lansing, MI 48824
  • 527-355-6644

Personal website



Xuefei Ren


Xuefei Ren is an urban sociologist and her research intersects with all three signature areas of the Department of Sociology at MSU—health, environment, and migration. On health inequity, she is a principal investigator on a large international project that examines how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected vulnerable neighborhoods in Chicago, Toronto, and Johannesburg. On environment, she has published extensively on environmental governance in China and India, focusing on air pollution. On migration, she has been studying rural-to-urban migrants in China and their rights to housing. 

She is the author of three award-winning books: Governing the Urban in China and India: Land Grabs, Slum Clearance, and the War on Air Pollution (Princeton University Press, 2020; Honorable Mention for the Dennis Judd Best Book Award in Urban and Local Politics, American Political Science Association), Urban China (Polity, 2013; Best Academic Title, Choice Magazine), and Building Globalization: Transnational Architecture Production in Urban China (University of Chicago Press, 2011; Best Book in the Political Economy of the World System Section, and Honorable Mention for the Robert Park Best Book Award in Urban Sociology, American Sociological Association). 

Her research has been supported by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Andrew Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Urban Studies Foundation, among others. She is a Public Intellectual Fellow of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations (2021-2023). Her commentaries have appeared in Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, among others. 

She regularly teaches large undergraduate courses on World Urban System, Urban Sociology, International Development, and graduate seminars on Urban Theory and Structural Inequality. She is accepting new students and looking forward to working with students interested in the intersection of health, migration, and environment from a critical urban perspective. 


  • Asian Studies Center
  • Global Urban Studies Program


Link to articles and essays:



Ren, Xuefei. 2020. Governing the Urban in China and India: Land Grabs, Slum Clearance and the War on Air Pollution. Princeton: Princeton University Press. [Honorable Mention for the Dennis Judd Best Book Award on Urban Politics, American Political Science Association, 2021.] 

Ren, Xuefei and Roger Keil. (eds.) 2018. The Globalizing Cities Reader. New York: Routledge. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2013. Urban China. Cambridge: Polity Press. [Best Academic Title, Choice Magazine, 2013] 

Ren, Xuefei. 2011. Building Globalization: Transnational Architecture Production in Urban China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [Best Book Award, Political Economy of the World System; Honorable Mention of Robert Park Book Award in Urban Sociology, American Sociological Association, 2012] 

Journal Articles (2017-present):

Ren, Xuefei. 2021. “Urban China and Covid-19: How Chinese Cities Responded to the Pandemic,” Journal of International Affairs, in press. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2021. “The peripheral turn in global urban studies,” South Asia Interdisciplinary Academic Journal, 26, 1-8. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2021. “Suburbs and urban peripheries in a global perspective,” City & Community, 20(1): 38-47. 

Garrido, Marco, Xuefei Ren, and Liza Weinstein. 2021. “Toward a Global Urban Sociology: Keywords,” City & Community, 20(1): 4-12. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2020. “Historical Preservation in Rustbelt China: The Life and Death of Jihong Bridge,” Journal of Chinese Architecture and Urbanism, 2(2): 1-12. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2020. “From a comparative gesture to structured comparison: An analysis of air pollution control in Beijing and Delhi,” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 13(3): 461-473. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2020. “Pandemic and lockdown: A territorial approach to Covid-19 in China, Italy, and the U.S.” Eurasian Geography and Economics, 61(4-5): 423-434. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2020. “Slums, favelas, and urban villages: Housing crises in Guangzhou, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro,” Current History, 119 (813): 15-21. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2018. “From Chicago to China and India: Studying the city in the 21st century,” Annual Review of Sociology, 44: 497-513. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2017. “Aspirational urbanism from Beijing to Rio de Janeiro: Olympic cities in the global South and contradictions,” Journal of Urban Affairs, 39(7): 894-908. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2017. “Governing the informal: Housing policies over informal settlements in China, India, and Brazil,” Housing Policy Debate, 28(1): 79-93. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2017. “Land acquisition, rural protests, and the local state in China and India,” Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 35(1): 22-38. 

Book Chapters (2017-present):

Woodworth, Max, Xuefei Ren, Jesse Rodenbiker, Ettore Santi, Yining Tan, Li Zhang, Yu Zhou. (forthcoming). “Researching China during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Covid-19 and an Emerging World of Ad Hoc Geographies, Stanley D. Brunn and Donna Gilbreath (eds.) Edward Elgar. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2021. “The political economy of urban ruins: Redeveloping Shanghai,” in Re-creating Shanghai, Rosemary Wakeman (ed). Springer. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2020. “Redeveloping informal settlements in China, India, and Brazil,” in Chinese Cities in the 21st Century, Youqin Huang (ed), p.81-90. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2020. “Nanjing too, introduction Two,” “Mountain island city,” “Bridge city” in Nanjing Charter, Terreform (ed), p.30, 89, 112. New York: Terreform. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2020. “Planning mega-regions in China and India,” in Metropolitan Circles Development and the Future of Urbanization, Wei Shan and Lijun Yang (eds). Singapore: World Scientific Press. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2020. “Thousand-mile city,” in Routledge Handbook of Chinese Architecture, Jianfei Zhu, Wei Chen, and Hua Li (eds). London: Routledge.  

Ren, Xuefei. 2019. “Robert Park in China: From the Chicago School to urban China studies,” in The City in China: Perspectives on Contemporary Urbanism, Ray Forrest, Julie Ren, and Bart Wissink (eds), p.1-16. Bristol: Policy Press.  

Ren, Xuefei. 2019. “Building on quick sand: Infrastructural megaprojects in China,” in Critical Perspectives on Suburban Infrastructure, Pierre Filion (ed), p.301-317. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.  

Ren, Xuefei. 2019. “Cities in developing countries,” in The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Urban and Regional Studies, Anthony Orum (ed), p.1-8. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.  

Ren, Xuefei. 2018. “A genealogy of redevelopment in Chinese cities,” in Urbanization and Urban Governance in China: Issues, Challenges, and Development, Lin Ye (ed), p.93-108. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2018. “In search of the cosmopolitan Chinese city: Guangzhou’s urban villages,” in Letters to the Leaders of China: Kongjian Yu and the Future of the Chinese City, Michael Sorkin (ed), p.202-211. New York: Terreform.  

Ren, Xuefei and Roger Keil. 2018. “From global to globalizing cities,” in The Globalizing Cities Reader, Xuefei Ren and Roger Keil (eds), p.xxiii-xxix. New York: Routledge. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2018. “Global city building in China and its discontents,” in The Globalizing Cities Reader, Xuefei Ren and Roger Keil (eds), p.307-312. New York: Routledge. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2018. “Governing the informal in globalizing cities: Comparing China, India, and Brazil,” in The Globalizing Cities Reader, Xuefei Ren and Roger Keil (eds), p.459-464. New York: Routledge. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2018. “ ‘Green’ as urban spectacle in China,” in Sustainable Cities in Asia, Federico Caprotti and Li Yu (eds), p.77-85. London: Routledge.  

Ren, Xuefei. 2017. “Fragile entrepreneurialism: The Mumbai airport slum redevelopment project,” in Entrepreneurial Urbanism in India: The Politics of Spatial Restructuring and Local Contestation, Smitha Kanekanti Chandrashekar (ed), p.157-173. Singapore: Springer. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2017. “Biggest infrastructure bubble ever? City and nation building with debt-financed megaprojects in China,” in The Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Management, Bent Flyvbjerg (ed), p.139-153. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2017. “Cities in China and India: Disjuncture, master-concepts, and comparisons,” in A Research Agenda for Cities, John R. Short (ed), p.195-205. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar. 

Ren, Xuefei. 2017. “Lost in translation: Names, meanings, and development strategies of Beijing’s periphery,” in What’s in a Name? Talking about Urban Peripheries, Richard Harris and Charlotte Vorms (eds), p.316-333. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.