Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies: Predissertation Travel Grants to China

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.  Studies on and in China have developed over the last 30 years in North America into a robust field, but current conditions pose daunting problems, especially for scholars just before and just after the dissertation.

Predissertation travel grants provide funding for graduate students to explore venues and make preliminary research arrangements, and to gain advice from potential collaborators regarding subsequent research in China.

This program is made possible by a generous grant from The Henry Luce Foundation.

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. 

Tiffany W Beres
Tiffany W Beres  |  Abstract
Why do artists look to the past to find contemporary inspiration? An unlikely episode in modern Chinese art history is the alliance between prominent painters and collectors to create hybrid works of strong antiquarian flavor. My dissertation focuses on a genre known as bogu or “ancient erudition” paintings from the late Qing and Early Republic. Largely ignored by art historians, these composite ink painting and rubbing works combine elements of archeology, epigraphy as well as Western realism. This study seeks to shed light on the socio-historical context and motives for these images. Ultimately, this research may help define how antiquarian practices seeped into Chinese popular culture, and shed light on the ways in which art can transform antiquity into a modern visual language.

Doctoral Student, Art History, Theory, and Criticism, University of California, San Diego  -  Modern Antiquity: Chinese Bogu Painting in the Late Qing and Early Republic

Alexandra Noi
Alexandra Noi  |  Abstract
This comparative project aims to reconstruct the experiences of the so-called “returnees” in reentering society, after they were released from the Gulag and Laogai labor camps in the post-Stalin Soviet Union and post-Mao China. For many of them the vicissitudes of their comeback were no less challenging than their survival behind the bars. The diverse paths of reentry help demonstrate the variety of idiosyncrasies, the dimensions of human agency, the strategies of everyday politics as employed by the ex-prisoners, and the governmentality – ways in which different state agents involved in the reentry interacted with former convicts, as well as the abilities and limitations of state power in governing, controlling, or assisting people outside the prison walls.

Doctoral Student, History, University of California, Santa Barbara  -  Life after the Soviet Gulag and Chinese Laogai: Mechanisms of Reentry into Society

Dijia Chen
Dijia Chen  |  Abstract
My research investigates the process in which overseas architectural exhibitions instigated the recognition of the unlicensed, independent Chinese architects that emerged in the early 1990s as a resistance to the state-owned, mainstream design institutes, both at home and abroad. Here, architectural production is approached as a mediated culture phenomenon in global power dynamic rather than the construction of physical buildings in a local setting. These European-curated exhibitions grouped them under the unifying label of the “contemporary Chinese architecture”, established their positions in design markets and academic institutions and ultimately entitled the creative class, instead of the state-owned institutes, to represent China on the world platform.

Doctoral Student, Architecture, University of Virginia  -  Chinese Architects on Display: the Making of Contemporary Chinese Architecture in Transnational Exhibitionary Events from the Late 1990s to the Early 2000s

Yuanxie Shi
Yuanxie Shi  |  Abstract
My dissertation examines rural women's huge unseen contributions to industrialization and the politics of knowledge in the socialist China. With nationwide lacemaking production as the background, the research focuses on a specific case study in Shantou and Chaozhou area, which enjoyed a good reputation in the US market. Unlike Swiss lacemaking industry, Chaoshan export production never fully supplanted hands with machines and relied heavily on interlaced putting-out networks under different political regimes. The identification of various taxonomies of knowledge, including embodied technical knowledge, design knowledge, social and managerial knowledge, knowledge of the market, uncovers the hierarchies of knowledge which undermine the women's skills and their contribution to economy.

Doctoral Student, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago  -  Interlaced Economies and Knowledges: Rural Women’s work and Export Lacemaking in Socialist China

Preston Decker
Preston Decker  |  Abstract
This study examines discourses of environmental modernity in Xinjiang during the early and mid twentieth century (1912-1966). The introduction of modern ideas and technologies in Xinjiang during this time was supported and buttressed in Han Chinese, Uyghur (Turki), and other communities in Xinjiang by an assortment of modern discourses regarding such components of the everyday environment as weather events, public hygiene, bacterial regimes, and control over the environment itself. These discourses, 'arriving' in Xinjiang from China proper, Central Asia, and elsewhere, and subsequently modified within Xinjiang itself, both derived from and challenged the meta-discourses of the modern state and citizen, ultimately providing a discursive foundation for the construction of a new Xinjiang in the Republican and PRC eras.

Doctoral Student, History, University of Kansas  -  Toward a Modern Makan and Jiayuan: Discourses of Environmental Modernity in Twentieth Century Xinjiang

Yu-Cheng Shih
Yu-Cheng Shih  |  Abstract
My project aspires to reconfigure the topography of state power from the perspective of its watery peripheries. By focusing on Lake Tai, the southwestern margin of the lower Yangzi—the most developed and governed region in China from the late imperial to modern period, I offer a new approach to analyze how lakes and waterways form a fluid frontier that shapes the ways its dwellers interact with expanding modern authorities. To be precise, my study aims to challenge the prevalent perception of China as a terrestrial power, asking to what degree such understanding will change when shifting our view from land-based into water-centered by stressing living experiences of resistance on or near inland waters.

Doctoral Student, History, Brown University  -  Watery State: Environmental Changes, Water Communities, and Religion around Lake Tai in Modern China, 1850-1950

Ke Hu
Ke Hu  |  Abstract
The main question this project asks is how accelerators, “schools of startup entrepreneurship," are changing our imagination about the future of food through incubating emerging food technologies that flow between the US and China. Extremely important for contemporary innovation culture, accelerators' practices, cultures and social significance have not garnered enough scholarly attention. This project, based on participant observations over the course of a year, will record these institutions’ daily practices, and examine how those practices, together with their investors’ and employees’ beliefs, produce its tech and business culture. Then it investigates their broader social impacts and society's response to their emergence. It ultimately asks: "what is an accelerator?"

Doctoral Student, Science, Technology and Society, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University  -  Investing in a Food Utopia: How emerging food technologies are incubated transnationally

Siwei Wang
Siwei Wang  |  Abstract
My dissertation studies the Sino-Latin American literary connection in the context of the Third World movement in the Cold War era. I will show how the rising Third Worldism contributed to the highly productive literary exchanges between China and Latin America since the 1950s. My research begins with the Chilean writer Pablo Neruda's popularity among Chinese poets after his visit to China in 1951 and ends with the sensational effect of Latin American magical realism in China in the 1980s. By showing how Chinese and Latin American writers tried to build up a new network of literary production, translation, and circulation, my dissertation studies Chinese literature by focusing on its relationship with Latin American literature and the Cultural Cold War.

Doctoral Student, Modern Chinese Literature, Columbia University  -  Towards Third World Solidarity: The Sino-Latin American Literary World in Cold War

Bill Kelson
Bill Kelson  |  Abstract
My dissertation is a study of the Shanghai Panic of 1883, China’s first empirewide financial collapse. More than a narrative, I use the panic as a window into lasting economic change brought on by China’s forced opening to world markets and foreign banking after the Opium Wars, fully felt only from the 1870s. The project’s core is an examination of interbank lending between the three main financial institutions in late-Qing China: qianzhuang (native banks), piaohao (remittance houses), and British imperial banks, operating out of China’s forcibly opened ports. Interbank lending in a semi-colonial political economy financed China's growing domestic and foreign trade, and ultimately sustained the speculative borrowing and investing that pushed up real estate, commodity, and stock prices to unreasonable heights in 1883.

Doctoral Student, History, University of Georgia  -  Shanghai Panic, 1883: World Markets, Semicolonial Finance, & China's First Empirewide Financial Crisis

Wei Mei Wong
Wei Mei Wong  |  Abstract
This study focuses on young adults and their use of Tantan, known as the “Chinese Tinder,” the most popular geosocial, swipe-based dating app in China. I aim to understand how and why Chinese young adults utilize Tantan to examine how mobile dating apps can potentially transform intimate relations in Contemporary China. To do this, I will conduct ethnographic research among a class and educationally stratified sample of single men and women recruited from Tantan, conduct content analysis on user’s app profiles, and investigation of their app management. The results will help us recognize the changes in the ways that people experience and create intimacy when there is a saturation of mobile app usage, an increasingly global phenomenon, while taking cultural particularities into account.

Doctoral Student, Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh  -  The relationship between a mobile dating app and intimate relations in contemporary China

Weiyu Li
Weiyu Li  |  Abstract
By selecting the most significant performances from the late 20th century to the 1990s and comparing the two very opposite readings and performances of black cultures and racial blackness, one is inscribing racial blackness in China’s own history of staging nationalism and anti-colonialism, and another is turning the performance of black cultures into the construction of China's urban middle class and cosmopolitanism, my project, from a dramaturgical perspective, examines how several historical moments led up to these theatrical and social performances of racial blackness in China. Furthermore, my project demonstrates how the repertoire itself shows a complex relationship to colonialism, modernity, and class consciousness, as well as a historical dialect of Chinese modernism.

Doctoral Student, Theatre History and Theory, University of Washington  -  Designs and Performances of Blackness: Contextualizing the Performance of Blackness in Modern China

Huiqiao Yao
Huiqiao Yao  |  Abstract
This dissertation investigates the expansion of the Confucian hagiographical tradition in late imperial China beginning with the Neo-Confucian figure Wang Yangming (1472-1529). As a result of the development of print culture and different religious traditions in the late Ming, hagiographical texts featuring this heterodox and influential figure took various forms such as vernacular literature, illustrated manuals, chronicles, and recorded sayings. I term these texts as “vernacular Confucian hagiographies,” and by juxtaposing these different textual genres with visual presentations of Wang, I argue that these hagiographies played the function of popularizing and elevating Wang, thus reshaping Neo-Confucianism and popular literature in late imperial China.

Doctoral Student, Premodern Chinese Literature, University of Arizona  -  Popularizing the Sage: Wang Yangming and Vernacular Confucian Hagiographies in Late Imperial China

Yue Liang
Yue Liang  |  Abstract
The 1954 Yangzi River flood was the first major natural disaster that occurred after the establishment of the communist regime in 1949. It tested the new government’s ability to handle natural disasters and its political legitimacy to govern the country. Going beyond a state-centered narrative, my dissertation examines how the state extended its power to local society by the means of flood control, and how local people combated the flood and mobilized natural and social resources to serve for their own interests. By investigating previously unused county archives in Central China, this study uses flood as a lens to understand the dynamic relations between state control and local strategies in coping with natural disaster in the communist regime.

Doctoral Student, History, Binghamton University, State University of New York  -  When Disaster Strikes: The 1954 Yangzi River Flood and Competing Responses in Communist China

Jongsik Christian Yi
Jongsik Christian Yi  |  Abstract
This project documents the making of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) as a new hybrid veterinary medicine emerging from the revolutionary political economic experiment in Maoist China from 1949 to 1976. It argues that TCVM was constructed as “commune science,” a process and product of knowledge construction in which elite scientists, laypeople, and nonhuman animals collaboratively participate for the dual purpose of serving socialist industrialization and sustaining the communal ways of living in a “commune” as an ecological community. By shedding light on the everyday lives of grassroots veterinarians and their animal patients, I will reveal one of the most understudied aspects of China’s revolutionary past.

Doctoral Student, History of Science, Harvard University  -  Animals and Acupuncturists of Revolution: Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine and Commune Science in Maoist China, 1949-1976

James Arya Moallem
James Arya Moallem  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores the religio-political vision of Polhané (1689-1747), the ruler who oversaw Qing expansion into Tibet. The integration of Tibet into the imperial administration is already a well-known feature of the dynasty’s westward expansion. But unlike scholarly literature which presumes that a monolithic “Tibetan Buddhism” as deployed by the Qing court was the linchpin between center and periphery, this dissertation contends that Polhané’s heterodox Buddhist thought and rulership was equally integral. An examination of his vision as it manifests in Tibetan, Manchu, Mongol, Chinese, and Italian sources betrays a cosmopolitan intellectual who confronts both Buddhist and imperial orthodoxy, and highlights the importance of centering the periphery in understanding the empire at large.

Doctoral Student, History and East Asian Languages, Harvard University  -  Lord of Men in the Land of Gods: on the Cosmo-Moral vision of a Tibetan King and the Limits of Qing Universalism

Xin Yu
Xin Yu  |  Abstract
With no technological changes, how did the number of books increase in late-Ming China at a rate close to that in Europe, a place having experienced the printing revolution? Taking genealogies as an example, my dissertation argues that instead of innovating printing technology, book producers in late-Ming China worked to make books into meaningful objects for broader audiences—including peasants, laborers, and bond-servants—and therefore boosted the book industry. Using methods from history, art history, and the digital humanities to tap the over 400 extant late-Ming genealogies, this project shows a distinctive trajectory of how books made their way into commoners’ homes in China, puts commoners’ needs at the center of the process, and brings commoners into book history.

Doctoral Student, History, Washington University in St. Louis  -  Books for All: The Rise of Genealogies in China, 1500-1644