Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Early Career 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. 

Julie Bellemare
Julie Bellemare  |  Abstract
This project examines the multifaceted understandings of color in Qing China through the publication of a series of peer-reviewed articles. While the study of color has been developing as a field in the West for a few decades, only a handful of studies focus on color in China, and none address the shifting ontologies of polychromy specific to the Qing dynasty. The articles examine the imperial court’s drive toward colorful decorative arts in the early eighteenth century, the dissemination of material knowledge through workshop organization, and the impact of new vibrant hues and contrasts on emerging discourses of color and vision. This project stands to substantively contribute to China studies through the histories of art, science, and material culture of the Qing dynasty.

Doctoral Candidate, Bard Graduate Center  -  Color at the Qing Court: Understanding the Penchant for Polychromy, the Development of New Colorants, and the Dissemination of Material Knowledge Under the Kangxi and Yongzheng Emperors

Jiacheng Liu
Jiacheng Liu  |  Abstract
My book is a social and cultural history of the newly emerged opera actresses in early Republican Beijing. I challenge the accepted view by showing that actresses shaped the profession, repertoire, and performance no less profoundly than actors. I argue that the interaction between actresses and urban publics amounted to a frivolous but complex engagement with modernity, as they negotiated between the private and the public, the sexual and the virtuous, as well as the theatrical and the authentic. This project contributes to history of love and courtship; incorporates gossip, rumor and scandal in discussion of public space; and points to the neglected role of cultural conservatives in shaping the Chinese modern through a creative reconfiguration of sociability, morality, and subjectivity.

Assistant Professor, History, University of Northern Colorado  -  Flirting with Modernity: Actresses and Urban Publics in Early Republican Beijing

Max Bohnenkamp
Max Bohnenkamp  |  Abstract
This book project develops a new perspective on the roles of cultural nationalism and aesthetic modernism in the development of Chinese Communist literature and art through a study of one of the most iconic revolutionary creations of the wartime 1940s, the musical drama 'The White-Haired Girl.' Theories about this work's expression of the national authenticity of revolutionary culture have obscured the diversity of thought and practice that went into defining Communist aesthetics before the founding of the People's Republic of China. Revealing how 'The White-Haired Girl' was created through the adaptation of particular Western, Soviet, and Chinese aesthetic sources to express Communist revolution in China, this study reconsiders revolutionary cultural production as a synthesis of tradition with modernity and the local with the global.

Independent Scholar  -  Turning Ghosts into People: The White-Haired Girl and the Politics of Aesthetics in Revolutionary China

Irene Pang
Irene Pang  |  Abstract
This book is a comparative ethnography of construction workers in Beijing and Delhi. It documents the market, state, and social mechanisms which produce and reproduce the precarious conditions under which workers work and live. It also seeks to explain this puzzle: why are Beijing workers, compared to Delhi workers, more able to mobilize within the spaces of civil society to fight for their rights, despite authoritarianism in China, and democracy in India? Challenging established understandings of civil society organizing in authoritarian and democratic contexts, this book argues that the answer lies in the infrastructural power of the state: the same infrastructures that enable state control over society also empowers society to access and make demands on the state.

Assistant Professor, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University  -  Infrastructure of Resistance: Rights Contestation among Construction Workers in Beijing and Delhi

Darren T. Byler
Darren T. Byler  |  Abstract
Beginning in 2016, Chinese state authorities implemented a counter-terrorism law that placed hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other Muslim peoples in a "pre-criminal" category. This, in turn, led to their detainment and "reeducation" in internment camps. This research will show how the detainability of Muslims was produced through legal narratives and how this discursive frame and related surveillance infrastructures resulted in forms of state power and legal indeterminacy that produced patterns of experience for targeted populations. Drawing on approximately 100 interviews with former detainees and others who have recently fled from China as well as thousands of internal government documents, it probes beneath the banal everydayness of this discourse and material environment to consider the capacities humans have to refuse or denarrativize their existence, opening up space for thinking with violence.

Assistant Professor, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University  -  Thinking with Violence: Narratives of Reeducation Camps & Infrastructural State Power in Northwest China

Christopher K. Tong
Christopher K. Tong  |  Abstract
In the early 20th century, China saw some of the worst environmental disasters in its history. In brief, this project argues that modern Chinese narratives about environmental disasters shift along the axis of truth-telling versus partisanship. In 2018-19, I spent 10 months in the People’s Republic of China conducting archival research in Nanjing and Wuhan. The archival materials I have collected include rare first-person accounts of the 1931 floods along the Yangzi River and 1933 floods along the Yellow River. I argue that these archival materials, along with literary and historical narratives, shape the meaning of environmental disasters by emphasizing a spectrum of political rhetorics and practices beyond the revolutionary.

Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature & Asian Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County  -  Torrents of Revolution: Representation and Environmental Disasters in Early 20th-Century China

Yige Dong
Yige Dong  |  Abstract
This book project examines how the way of doing care—performing paid and unpaid reproductive labor that maintains our daily life and attends to people who are in need—has changed among Chinese workers from the socialist era to the present. Drawing on archival data, oral histories, and participatory observation in a textile mill town in central China, my research compares three generations of manufacturing workers’ experience of doing care, with a focus on the realm of childcare and domestic labor, and explains why care work had changed from unpaid “women’s work” in the household to a core constituent of labor welfare during socialist industrialization, and then has been removed from welfare provisions in recent decades. Shifting the analytical focus from the sphere of production to that of social reproduction, this study offers a reinterpretation of Chinese socialism and highlights the indispensable role of gender in understanding political economy.

Assistant Professor, Dept of Sociology and Dept of Global Gender & Sexuality Studies, University at Buffalo, State University of New York  -  The Fabric of Care: Women’s Work and the Politics of Livelihood in A Chinese Mill Town

Xin Wen
Xin Wen  |  Abstract
This book tells the history of Chang'an from 900, when it lost its status as the Tang capital, to 1400, when, in much reduced form, it solidified its role as a  provincial military stronghold. By reading textual as well as epigraphic sources, I show that, even though the urban structures of Chang'an experienced a dramatic transformation and destruction after the fall of the Tang, the enduring interests of its residents and visitors in revisiting and reviving its imperial sites kept its memory vibrant to this day. In telling a history of economic decline and cultural revival, this book charts a new path for our understanding of Chinese urban history in the middle period.

Assistant Professor, Dept of East Asian Studies and Dept of History, Princeton University  -  Capital of the Past: Urban and Cultural Transformations of Chang'an, 900-1400

Anne N Feng
Anne N Feng  |  Abstract
Despite being situated in arid environments, Buddhist caves around the Taklamakan desert were constructed along complex waterways. This study examines the relationship between visions of Buddhist paradise and water management in medieval China and Central Asia. Representations of Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land were famous for their expansive aerial views of a water-bound palace. Centered on the Dunhuang caves in northwest China, this project traces the development of a new type of representational space defined by convergent perspective in Chinese art, one that emerged from evolving attitudes towards hydro-engineering, aqueous materiality, and transparency in the Tang empire. Aqueous Visions traces the efforts of medieval painters to use the qualities of water to reimagine space and vision.

Assistant Professor, History of Art & Architecture, Boston University  -  Aqueous Visions: Water, Meditation, and Mural Painting in Medieval China (618-907 CE)

Daniela Wolin
Daniela Wolin  |  Abstract
Ongoing archeological excavations at the Late Shang (ca. 1250-1050 BCE) site of Yinxu have revealed an urban settlement with socially-stratified neighborhoods characterized by domestic areas, workshops, and cemeteries. Thousands of human skeletal remains have been uncovered in these cemeteries, providing direct access to information about the people who resided there. This project uses a bioarchaeological framework to explore everyday life within a neighborhood at Yinxu. By charting trends in osteological markers of health, activity, and trauma among individuals with varied statuses and identities, this study examines larger social issues such as inequality, division of labor, and interpersonal violence. This perspective ultimately enriches our understanding of the diverse lived experiences of the inhabitants of Yinxu.

Research Affiliate, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University  -  Bioarchaeology of a Late Shang Neighborhood

Mariachiara Gasparini
Mariachiara Gasparini  |  Abstract
Textiles and metalworks from the Tuyuhun-Tubo (Tibetan) tombs in Qinghai have suggested the existence of a southern branch of the main Silk Road between Gansu and Sichuan. These artworks, which also appear depicted in the Dunhuang caves’ mural paintings, are similar to those from Central Asia and north-west China. Despite a few publications on Qinghai textiles, this material has remained hitherto systematically unstudied. I argue that a view from the periphery will provide the key to read the cultural transfer to and from the center (China). The proposed research project sheds new light on the little-recognized Tuyuhun-Tubo art and the southern Silk Road, and the development of the Tibetan empire in the 7th century.

Assistant Professor, History of Art and Architecture, University of Oregon  -  Across the Tuyuhun-Tubo Kingdom: Visualizing Material Culture from Dunhuang to Sichuan between the 6th and 9th centuries.