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. 

Loubna El Amine
Loubna El Amine  |  Abstract
In my research project, I delineate the early Confucian conception of the political community by asking two sets of questions. The first relates to the community’s boundaries. I investigate what the criteria for membership in it are and what social boundaries (like class, birth, etc.) matter. I also ask whether territory is important and if so, how it defines the political community. The second set of questions concerns the community’s ideational foundations. I primarily explore what explains the Confucian concern for the past and whether the concern with maintaining historical continuity can be considered sacred.

Assistant Professor, Political Science, Northwestern University  -  The Foundations of Confucian Political Thought: History, Law, and the Political Community

Matthew Z. Noellert
Matthew Z. Noellert  |  Abstract
Based on my doctoral dissertation, this book manuscript project presents the most complete account to date of one Chinese county’s experience of Land Reform. By utilizing new, systematic data from county archives, I investigate Land Reform as a process that was carried out by actors at multiple levels in a county consisting of hundreds of villages. I show that Land Reform was neither a solely top-down process of CCP policy enforcement nor a bottom-up process of mass mobilization, but rather a complex combination of the two that challenges common understandings of authoritarian regimes. I argue that this combination was key to the success of the CCP, and not only transformed the lives of millions of rural Chinese but also shaped the future trajectories of China’s subsequent development.

Assistant Professor, History, The University of Iowa  -  Beyond Fanshen: New Perspectives on Communist Land Reform from Northeast China, 1946-1948

Shaohua Guo
Shaohua Guo  |  Abstract
This project builds on scholarship related to the Chinese Internet as a space of state control, activism, and literary practices. Moving beyond the "revolutionary" narrative of new technologies democratizing China, I examine how digital culture constitutes an integral zone of creativity even in authoritarian regimes like China by looking at the four most dynamic discursive spaces over the past two decades: bulletin board systems, blogs, microblogs akin to Twitter, and WeChat (a combination of WhatsApp and Facebook). By analyzing three prominent cultural modes – fun-seeking, trailblazing, and taboo-breaking – in the contemporary era, I contend that the entertainment-oriented online sphere has nurtured a diversified cultural public sphere that is open to constant contestation.

Assistant Professor, Asian Languages & Literatures, Carleton College  -  Liberalization of Cultural Space: Progressive Trends in China's Digital Public

Margaret Mih Tillman
Margaret Mih Tillman  |  Abstract
Given pointed criticisms against the civil service examination system in late imperial China, it is remarkable that testing not only continued, but also became deeply embedded in new Chinese schools in the 20th century. This project explores how and why testing became integrated into academic promotion to select schools, and its impact on Chinese conceptions of meritocracy. My hypothesis is that educational psychologists, trained in the United States, introduced aptitude testing in ways that reinforced the scientific value of educational testing. Originally influenced by the US, today Chinese testing cultures significantly contribute to global pressure to impose standardized exams.

Assistant Professor, History, Purdue University  -  Tested: Cultivating Talent and China’s Standardized Exams, 1905 to 1977

Kelly Anne Hammond
Kelly Anne Hammond  |  Abstract
In "China’s Muslims and Japan’s Empire", I argue that the constant reconfiguration of global networks in the Asia-Pacific region by imperial powers in the twentieth century had a lasting impact on the prevailing ethnic classifications within the PRC. I show how Japanese imperialism partly enabled alternate visions of autonomy for Muslim minorities in China during an era of collaboration and internationalism. My research highlights the global connections facilitated by Japanese imperialists with Muslims who lived under the shadow of occupation. Forging connections beyond the borders of occupied China, Muslims also served as mouthpieces of Japanese imperialism and provided the Japanese with the means to expand their political and cultural influence in the greater Islamic world.

Assistant Professor, History, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville  -  China's Muslims and Japan's Empire

Guojun Wang
Guojun Wang  |  Abstract
The project explores theatrical costuming as indices of ethnic and gender identities during the Ming-Qing transition (17th-18th centuries), when the Manchu rulers forced male Han Chinese to change into Manchu hairstyle and clothing, leaving theater as the exceptional arena for the exhibition of traditional Chinese clothing. Through examining drama texts and performances in the first century of the Qing dynasty, the book argues that theatrical costuming in early Qing China provided an actual and imaginative way to reassemble bodies, clothes, and identities disrupted by the dynastic change. In addition to a complete book manuscript, the project will also produce a group of standalone papers.

Assistant Professor, Asian Studies Program, Vanderbilt University  -  Unstageable World: Costuming and Personhood in Early Qing Drama

Tzu-hui Celina Hung
Tzu-hui Celina Hung  |  Abstract
My project examines the heretofore-overlooked subterranean connection between Taiwan’s indigenous Austronesian peoples and new immigrants—particularly their cultural politics in the 2000s in the face of the contradictory official discourse that posits Taiwan as a newly multicultural society despite its continued settler colonial domination. I focus on two recent milestones in Taiwan's multicultural market: the controversial indigenous musical On the Road (2010) and the Taiwan Literature Awards for Migrants (2014-present). Combining text-based discourse analysis with interviews and archival work, this project scrutinizes the evolving settler colonial imagination among the Han/Hoklo majority and sheds light on the intimate ties among Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.

Assistant Professor, Arts and Sciences, New York University Shanghai  -  Staging Original and New Residents: Settler Colonial Imagination in “Multicultural” Taiwan

Luman Wang
Luman Wang  |  Abstract
My research focuses on the family, banking, the state, and society in northwestern China from 1820 to 1930. Countering financial modernist assumptions that indigenous banking institutions from the Chinese interior would have faded under the influence of western imperialism, my research shows piaohao adapting to a new role as inland financial intermediaries in the export-oriented cash crop economy. Furthermore, I reveal piaohao developing symbiotic business relations with western colonial banks such as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation in the littoral. I also argue that the primary reason for the Qing Dynasty’s decline lies in a decentralized fiscal system and the prolonged transition from a minimalist agrarian empire to an expanding modern fiscal state after 1850.

Assistant Professor, History, University of Massachusetts Boston  -  Inland Family Banking from Empire to Nation-State: Unusual Histories of Shanxi Piaohao, 1820 to 1930

Travis Klingberg
Travis Klingberg  |  Abstract
This ethnographic study of domestic tourism in Sichuan Province is set between the urban landscape of Chengdu, the provincial capital, and the natural landscape of the Yading Nature Reserve in the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Region. It covers a twenty-year period of contemporary Chinese history – from 1992 to 2012 – and focuses on the active role that domestic tourists have come to play in the politics of geographic knowledge in China. For the first time in history, significant numbers of mainland Chinese have eschewed traditionally important scenic spots to explore places and regions outside the state-imagined tourism geography. This change marks an important shift in the politics of knowledge that sustains China’s national geo-body.

Visiting Scholar, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Ludwig Maximilians Universität München, Germany  -  Exploring Place: Domestic Tourism and the Politics of Geographic Knowledge in Post-Reform China

Bin Xu
Bin Xu  |  Abstract
This project examines collective memory of China’s “educated youth” (zhiqing) generation in order to address memory of a “difficult past.” I argue that class and related factors, such as life course, symbolic capital, and habitus, are central to both their generational collective memory represented in cultural objects and practices, and their individual memories in personal narratives. I analyze various data collected in fieldwork trips to China from 2013-2017, including more than 100 in-depth interviews, participant observations of commemorative activities, visits to memorials, exhibits, literary works, memoirs, and archives. This study makes contributions to memory studies by bringing back in a less studied but significant factor: social class.

Assistant Professor, Sociology, Emory University  -  Unequal Memories: Class and Memories of China’s “Educated Youth” Generation

Yajun Mo
Yajun Mo  |  Abstract
"From Shanghai to Shangri-La" focuses on the life and work of Shanghai photographer Zhuang Xueben, whose explorations and photography of the Sino-Tibetan frontiers in the 1930s and 1940s provide one of the broadest and most striking visual records of the region and its diverse peoples. While his ethnographical photographs were widely circulated in different venues across Republican-era print media, they slowly disappeared after 1949, and remained forgotten until Zhuang was rediscovered in the 21st century as a hidden master of Chinese photography. This study explores this lost-and-found story and examines the material and cultural history of Zhuang’s frontier photography. Situating the productions and reproductions of Zhuang’s ethnographic photographs of the Sino-Tibetan frontiers within global and local histories of photography, popular print culture, and ethnography, this book project tracks the diverse paths through which China’s ethnographic frontier was envisioned, constructed, and reimagined at several distinct historical moments.

Assistant Professor, History, Boston College  -  From Shanghai to Shangri-La: Zhuang Xueben and China's Ethnographic Frontier