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. 

Sakura Christmas
Sakura Christmas  |  Abstract
The multiethnic landscape of the Mongol territories posed fundamental problems in governance for Nationalists, Japanese, and Communists in Northeast China. This project focuses on how Mongol elites collaborated with Japanese occupiers in pursuing ethnic cleansing and environmental planning to mark an internal border in this zone of mixed settlement. This border still defines the eastern limits of Inner Mongolia today. Japanese imperialism transformed an earlier policy of assimilation—aimed at integrating frontiers into the Republican nation-state—into a blueprint for autonomous regions. Instead of seeing the origins of Communist rule as forged in the war against imperialism, the project points to the significance of the Japanese occupation in shaping the ethnic and ecological bounds of modern China.

Assistant Professor, History and Asian Studies, Bowdoin College  -  Nomadic Borderlands: Imperial Japan and the Origins of Ethnic Autonomy in China

Scott Relyea
Scott Relyea  |  Abstract
This multi-disciplinary research project explores patterns of learning and the global transmission of knowledge in the Kham borderland straddling eastern Tibet and western Sichuan Province in southwest China during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It analyses how four diverse colonial projects influenced a settlement endeavour in Kham, how knowledge of the international law principle of ‘effective occupation’ reached China, and how this settlement endeavour was used to substantiate Chinese sovereignty claims based on effective occupation at the Simla Conference (1913-14). Focusing on the impact of globalising ideas in practice and in context, this research deepens understanding of the transformative influence of these ideas on polities and societies then and their resonance today.

Assistant Professor, History, Appalachian State University  -  Learning to Be Colonial: ‘Effective Occupation’ and Early Twentieth Century Chinese Settlement of Eastern Tibet

Ariel Fox
Ariel Fox  |  Abstract
My project centers around a group of influential yet understudied playwrights active in the commercial and cultural center of Suzhou during the second half of the seventeenth century. In a departure from the norms of elite drama, the plays attributed to the Suzhou playwrights take merchants and shopkeepers as their protagonists, construct plots around broken contracts and property disputes, and map the circulations of copper coins and silver ingots. Through the recasting of the merchant and his money as moral agents and the recuperation of commerce as a socially generative act, these plays make manifest an economic imaginary that links Suzhou playwrights, actors, and audiences with their counterparts in increasingly interconnected urban centers across the world. I argue that it is through this transformation of the stage into a self-consciously productive space that the early modern theater provided a framework for conceptualizing the global, the universal, and the infinite.

Assistant Professor, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago  -  Commercial Acts: Staging the Market in Early Modern China

Elena Shih
Elena Shih  |  Abstract
China’s “Belt and Road” initiative connecting China to Southeast and South Asia will bisect Ruili City, on the China-Myanmar border, a city that was once labeled the “Las Vegas of China,” for its limited government regulation of gambling, commercial sex, heroin trade, human trafficking, and a booming HIV/AIDS epidemic. This ethnography asks how new regionalist economic development strategies, like the Belt and Road Initiative, reshape rural-urban relationships, and ethnic minority relationships to land and global labor on this contentious border? This project illuminates a paradox that global capital's mobility and promises of regionalist integration, are marked by certain forms of intractable immobility that people living in borderland communities disproportionately bear.

Assistant Professor, American Studies, Brown University  -  Belt and Road Borderlands: (Im)Mobility and Building the Periphery

Macabe Keliher
Macabe Keliher  |  Abstract
My book project presents a major new approach to military centralization and the relationship between war-organization and the growth of empire in early modern China. Whereas previous accounts have assumed a particular form of military rationalization programmatically imposed by a powerful emperor in the 18th century, I argue instead that politically contingent developments beginning a century earlier shaped military and administrative institutions that lay the basis for the Qing conquest and rule of China and parts of Inner Asia. This included not only the consolidation of military leaders and appointments, but also the construction of a bureaucratic apparatus for the provision of equipment and rations, the financing of operations, and the administration of tens of thousands of officers.

Assistant Professor, History, West Virginia University  -  Centralizing the Manchu Military and the Transformation of Empire in Early Modern China

Jeremy Tai
Jeremy Tai  |  Abstract
My project investigates the roots of contemporary China’s Belt and Road Initiative through previous instances of Chinese state power extending itself into peripheries, particularly Northwest China. Over the past century, whenever the densely populated eastern seaboard has been threatened by crisis, Chinese officials launched development campaigns in the hinterland. To garner popular support, political regimes not only pointed to the problem of regional inequality but also translated colonial imaginaries, including the American frontier story, the English garden city, and the Silk Road. Through a focus on the city of Xi’an, I consider how the Chinese state has attempted to align local space and subjectivity with their economic strategies and cultural imaginaries in the Northwest.

Assistant Professor, History and Classical Studies, McGill University  -  Frontier Fantasies: Northwest China, National Crisis, and the Cultural Imagination

Ke Li
Ke Li  |  Abstract
Through the lens of divorce litigation in rural China, my book investigates three critical questions: how has women’s participation in massive rural-to-urban labor migration impacted their legal consciousness and affected marriage, family, and gender relationships in Chinese society? How does the grassroots official justice system respond to the rapid rise of divorce among an increasingly mobile rural population? In what ways does the justice system redress or reproduce inequities and injustices? To answer these questions, I draw on over two years of dissertation fieldwork conducted in southwest China. Ultimately, by integrating insights from sociolegal studies and China studies, this book project seeks to create new frontiers in the study of power and resistance in late-socialist China.

Assistant Professor, Political Science, City University of New York, John Jay College  -  From Contention to Resignation: Divorce Litigation, Gender Inequality, and State Power in Rural China

Angela Xiao Wu
Angela Xiao Wu  |  Abstract
Based on documentary research, participatory observation, and in-depth interviews, this project will investigate the construction, implementation, and dissemination of third-party supplied metrics on online expressions in China. Drawing from communication literature on visibilities, science and technology studies, and emerging critical data studies, I will analyze how these metrics instigate and organize new regimes of visibility that reconfigure societal perceptions of web use and web users, and how this reconfiguration shapes people’s online encounters and experiences.

Assistant Professor, Media, Culture and Communication, New York University  -  Sorting out the Internet with Data Analytics

Ross Perlin
Ross Perlin  |  Abstract
Trung (Dulong) is a little-documented, endangered Tibeto-Burman language with approximately 6,000 speakers in the mountainous border region of northwest Yunnan Province. I propose to revise and prepare for publication my dissertation – an in-depth, fieldwork-based description of this endangered and little-documented language, spoken by one of China’s smallest official nationalities in a region that is arguably China’s most multilingual but undergoing rapid language shift to Chinese. Although grounded in linguistics and endangered language documentation, the book will aim to connect rapid linguistic and cultural change in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands to broader discussions within China Studies about Han and minority identities, Zomia and borderlands, and the revival of religion.

Independent Scholar, Minority languages of China  -  A Grammar of Trung (Dulong), a Tibeto-Burman Language of Southwest China

Xia Zhang
Xia Zhang  |  Abstract
In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party has ardently promoted filial piety in moral education for its rule, but this has been resisted by Chinese domestic child abuse survivors who initiated an anti-parent movement on the Internet. Combining virtual ethnography with offline multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in China, this project investigates how new media and the transnational circulation of psychological self-help knowledge bring about new strategies and cultural resources that the child abuse survivors employ to resist hegemonic discourses of family and kin morality and to challenge the authoritarian state. This research sheds valuable light on the complex relationships between the Chinese state, the family, civil society, and the individual over the important issues of domestic violence, cyberspace activism, mental health and mental-care techniques in the unique political and cultural circumstances of today’s China.

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Portland State University  -  "Parents Are Poison": Filial Piety, New Media, and Psychological Self-Help in Contemporary China