Tristan G. Brown F'16, G'13

Tristan G. Brown
Research Fellow
Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
University of Cambridge, UK

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2016
Doctoral Candidate
History
Columbia University
The Veins of the Earth: Law, Geomancy, and the Transformation of Property in Modern China, 1865-1928

In late imperial China, land was measured not just in quantifiable dimensions, but also by a community’s relationship to it. The harming of a lineage’s “earth vein” or a temple’s fengshui were valid legal claims in county courts. This project uses rare archival documentation and ritual manuscripts to show how geomancy was both a strategy employed by the local population of Nanbu County for the expression of property claims as well as a means by which the state judged and enforced those claims. It then reveals how new legal standards, tax regimes, and surveying techniques demanded a transformed relationship among state, subject, and earth in the twentieth century. This study thus brings Chinese and international legal history into conversation with religious territoriality and historical anthropology, and opens a window into the changing dynamics of property on the eve of the communist revolution.

Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation-Summer Travel Grants 2013
Doctoral Candidate
History
Columbia University
The Western Muslim Frontier Corridor in the Making of Modern China, 1684 to 1928

Stretching from Turkestan and Mongolia, straddling the Tibetan highlands, and aligning Southeast Asia, a string of Chinese Muslim communities produced soldiers, scholars, and merchants who locally shaped the consolidation of imperial territories from the time of their arrival in the Yuan (1271-1368) to the twentieth century. This prospectus proposes research to examine the placement and functions of this Muslim frontier corridor in late imperial China through the lens of Persian, Arabic, Mongol, Tibetan, Manchu, and Chinese language sources. I propose that the process of imperial consolidation was not only facilitated through the central institutions of the state but also an Islamic legacy of the Mongol conquest that profoundly shaped subsequent dynasties and ultimately, modern China.