Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies: Postdoctoral Fellowships

The Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies seeks to maintain the vitality of China Studies in the US and Canada through fellowships and grants designed primarily for scholars early in their careers.

Early Career Fellowships support scholars in preparing their PhD dissertation research for publication or in embarking on new research projects.

This program is made possible by a generous grant from The Henry Luce Foundation, with additional funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Read more about this fellowship program.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Kathlene Baldanza
Kathlene Baldanza  |  Abstract
During the late imperial period, Chinese states extended their reach into the borderland provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi, and even briefly colonized northern Vietnam (1407-1427). This southern expansion exposed Chinese sojourners and settlers to southern diseases (for instance, malaria-like fevers induced by miasmas), but also new medicines and medical techniques. My project draws on medical guides, gazetteers, compendium of materia medica, and other texts from both sides of the border to trace the flow of medical knowledge between the two countries. My project shows that the climate and diseases of the Sino-Viet borderlands hindered the colonial expansion of both states, even as rich medical resources spurred colonial desires.

Assistant Professor, History and Asian Studies, Pennsylvania State University  -  Medical Colonialism in China and Vietnam

Guotong Li
Guotong Li  |  Abstract
Although recent scholarship on Chinese Muslims has begun to shed light on this long-ignored subject, little is known about the lives of Chinese Muslims on the southeast coast between the end of the Mongol dynasty and modern times. This project focuses on Muslim merchants' local community life in the transnational port of Quanzhou in the global context when they adapted to becoming Chinese in the Ming. It investigates Quanzhou's connections to the broader world of global commercial and religious networks and to use this as an analytical window into local community life. It will challenge the generalizations about the post-Mongol Sinification by examining Chinese elites' interactions with their Muslim neighbors, and Muslim marriage networks and their lineage practices in late imperial times.

Associate Professor, History, California State University, Long Beach  -  A Chinese Muslim Community in Late Imperial Quanzhou: Gender and Ethnicity on China's Southeast Coast

Emily Baum
Emily Baum  |  Abstract
My research examines the ways in which everyday men and women came to terms with new psychiatric epistemologies and institutions that were introduced to China in the Republican period (1911-1949). While previous works on Chinese medical history focus exclusively on the attitudes of intellectuals and reformist political elites, my research shifts the focus onto the types of people who were not immediately concerned with the project to modernize Chinese medicine. Instead, I explore the more subtle ways in which Chinese healers, patients, and families integrated aspects of neuropsychiatry into their preexistent medical repertoires, appropriated new terms to describe their psychosomatic suffering, and invoked psychiatric concepts to explain the changing shape of 20th century Chinese society.

Assistant Professor, History, University of California, Irvine  -  Spit, Chains, and Hospital Beds: A History of Madness in Republican China, 1911 to 1937

Xia Shi
Xia Shi  |  Abstract
Much scholarship has focused on the so-called “New Woman” and neglected what traditional women were doing beyond the domestic sphere, especially during a unique transitional historical period when more women were stepping into the public world. It therefore echoes the progressive reformer Liang Qichao’s famous portrayal of traditional women as parasitic, unproductive and backward subjects contributing to China’s profound national crisis of 1890s. This project fills this conspicuous lacuna in Chinese gender history by investigating the public life experiences of some traditional women through the lens of philanthropy, a traditionally-sanctioned field for women’s activism, to show how they moved out of domestic seclusion and repositioned themselves as effective actors in modern urban society. It sheds crucial light on how reconfigured traditions became essential components of modernity in the development of modern Chinese gender roles. It also adds a much-needed and indispensable gendered perspective to the burgeoning historiography on Chinese philanthropy.

Assistant Professor, History, New College of Florida  -  Stepping into the Public World: Traditional Women and Philanthropy in Early Twentieth-Century China

Maura Dykstra
Maura Dykstra  |  Abstract
This project uses materials from the Ba County archives, the First Historical Archives, and the manuscript collections of several libraries to outline the development of the urban market and court system in the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) inland port of Chongqing. It begins with a narrative of how the mountainous riverine port of Chongqing was first administered in the immediate post-conquest era. It then explains how and why these institutions were adapted over the course of the nineteenth century to suit the city's growing market, and how the interaction between court and market institutions became increasingly sophisticated over the century and a half after Qing conquest. This history of institutional evolution is then used as a background for explaining how the reform efforts of 1894-1911 transformed the terms of state-market relations in a way that would set the stage for the rest of the twentieth century. The conclusion of this work will explain how and why the founding of China’s modern state institutions should be considered the result of a modern transformation of imperial practices, rather than a radical break between a Chinese Past and a Modern Present.

Assistant Professor, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, History, California Institute of Technology  -  Law and Economy in a Complex State: The Development of Chongqing in the Qing Dynasty

Craig Anthony Smith
Craig Anthony Smith  |  Abstract
Until recent decades, historians of modern East Asia generally considered Asianism to be an imperialist ideology from Japan. However, early proponents of this discourse looked upon it as a strategy of uniting nations to defend against Western imperialism. This study investigates Chinese intellectual discourse from Sun Yat-sen’s speeches in 1924 to the beginning of Japan’s occupation of China proper in 1937, considering calls for regionalism in their intellectual and historical contexts. Focusing upon Sino-Japanese conferences, as well as a number of key intellectuals from both the Communist Party and the Guomindang, I will show how pan-Asian strategies were earnestly discussed in pre-war China, and that this discourse had a strong influence upon the construction of Chinese nationalism.

Adjunct Faculty, History, University of British Columbia  -  Nationalism and Regionalism: Chinese Intellectuals' Writings on Asianism and the Empire of Japan

Christine I. Ho
Christine I. Ho  |  Abstract
This project examines collective art production (jiti chuangzuo) in modern and contemporary Chinese art. A working method used across the arts—literary, performing, and visual—collective production was designed to model social relations on a miniature scale, redistribute hierarchies of authority and knowledge, channel mass creativity, and transform creative energy into productive labor. Beginning with an analysis of its historical emergence and theorization in the 1930s, continuing through the persistence of collective production from the fine arts (ink painting, history painting, sculpture) to mass arts (worker-peasant groups, public murals, Red Guard manuals) of the socialist period, collective art production still resonates within the social practices of contemporary art today.

Assistant Professor, History of Art and Architecture, University of Massachusetts Amherst  -  Collective Brushwork

Philip Thai
Philip Thai  |  Abstract
During the early twentieth century, official efforts to strengthen economic controls transformed smuggling from a chronic nuisance to a virulent epidemic. Up and down the coast, state agents raided stores and villages, intercepted vessels on land and seas, fought armed gangs, and subjected travelers to invasive searches—all in the name of combating illicit trade. Canvassing legal cases, customs records, and press reports, this project uses the war on smuggling to assess the shifting boundaries and scope of state power while highlighting varied responses to creeping regulatory encroachment in everyday life. Far from being a simple law-enforcement initiative, the fight against coastal smuggling enhanced state capacity and held wide-ranging consequences for society and economy.

Assistant Professor, History, Northeastern University  -  The War on Smuggling: Law, State Power, and Illicit Markets in Coastal China

Lijing Jiang
Lijing Jiang  |  Abstract
For developing genetics, embryology, and fishery in modern China, the goldfish played a uniquely important role both because of its potentials in generating experimental novelties and due to the country’s long history of goldfish breeding. This project traces the trajectory of using goldfish as an experimental organism for building biology and as a model for improving fishery in twentieth-century China. It depicts how these disciplinary and technological developments engaged local cultures, transnational sciences, and national politics. With concrete scientific practices, the project provides new perspectives on the changing role of Chinese intellectuals in transforming a literati and craft culture, building a modern nation, and developing a unique path to Chinese biological modernity.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of East Asian Studies, Princeton University  -  Of Goldfish and Scientists: Experimental Biology in Modern China

Leah Ya Zuo
Leah Ya Zuo  |  Abstract
This project makes the case for Shen Gua (1031-1095) as China's first empiricist. A renowned polymath and "precocious scientist," Shen presented a strikingly new empirical stance in his famous _Brush Talks from Dream Brook_. An emphasis on sensory perception as source of belief distinguished his stance from contemporaneous mainstream systems, which related things to a unifying cosmos and relied on the cosmic order for meanings. In his writings, Shen presented his stance through a gamut of experiential examples ranging from classical exegesis to studies of seas, stars, and living creatures. I argue that this is the first attempt by a Chinese scholar to introduce a kind of empiricism to the intellectual world and present it as a worthy way of seeking knowledge.

Assistant Professor, History and Asian Studies (joint appointment), Bowdoin College  -  A New Way of Knowing in Middle-Period China: Shen Gua (1031 to 1095) and the Birth of Empiricism