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

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. 

Selda Altan
Selda Altan  |  Abstract
The French colonial administration of Indo-China attained the Chinese railroad concessions in the late 19th century. The construction of the Yunnan railroad (1898-1910) aroused local discontent and confronted an unprecedented labor shortage due to Yunnan’s harsh geography. While these two issues forced French managers and administrators to develop solutions in line with their colonial principles, railroad workers reacted to the French colonial policies in their own ways. My dissertation project analyzes the construction of the French railroad in Yunnan within the frame of French colonialism and labor politics in southwestern China. I propose that the everyday interactions between the two were the site of struggle and reconciliation.

Doctoral Candidate, History, New York University  -  The French Railroad Project in Yunnan and Everyday Politics of Labor in Early Twentieth Century China

Eric T. Schluessel
Eric T. Schluessel  |  Abstract
This dissertation argues that Chinese and Uyghurs in the late Qing and early Republic developed a common set of institutions and cultural vocabulary for the articulation of power and authority. I challenge the “clash of civilizations” narrative of interethnic relations in Xinjiang by demonstrating, on the basis of mostly Chinese- and Uyghur-language manuscript sources, that the deployment of multiple models of law and local government helped to engender the entrenchment of both Chinese and Muslim elites in local society and, as a result, the emergence of a hybrid cultural nexus of power. I explore how both groups used each other’s legal and religious institutions and advance a refined model of brokerage and the localization of imperial power in the Chinese context.

Doctoral Candidate, History and East Asian Languages, Harvard University  -  The Muslim Emperor of China: Legal Cultures and Ritual Regimes in Reconstruction Xinjiang, 1877 to 1933

Kyoungjin Bae
Kyoungjin Bae  |  Abstract
My dissertation examines the interaction between Europeans and Chinese in the material culture of export Chinese furniture in Canton, Batavia, and Britain during the long eighteenth century. It concerns the transmission and domestication of taste and knowledge as cultural and technical entities through the production and consumption of furniture. In particular, by examining the British “Chinese bookcase,” the Batavian “Chinese cabinet,” and the vernacular display cabinets of Canton, it shows how Europeans and Chinese co-produced and co-domesticated “Chinese-ness” in heterogeneous ways by mixing exotic and familiar cultural elements. Focusing on the intersection between the local and the global, my dissertation will thus reconfigure the cultural geography of early modern global trade.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Columbia University  -  Objects of Taste and Knowledge: Chinese Furniture between London, Batavia, and Canton in the Long Eighteenth Century

Amelia L. Schubert
Amelia L. Schubert  |  Abstract
China’s ethnic Korean minority in Yanbian Prefecture, Jilin, is caught up in a migration with disastrous demographic results. Many Asian countries have high male birthrates; China alone reported 32 million ‘extra’ young men in 2011. South Korea has eased their ‘marriage squeeze’ by encouraging women from Yanbian to migrate for marriage. This has brought major challenges to Yanbian, skewing local sex ratios and causing fertility to decline. But migrants send remittances reliably. The departure of young women thus imperils the reproductive future of Yanbian while offering immediate economic benefits to migrants and their families. As China begins promoting marriage migration in response to its own sex imbalance, this research asks how out-bound female migration impacts sending communities.

Doctoral Candidate, Geography, University of Colorado Boulder  -  Impacts of Female Out-Migration on Ethnic Korean Communities in China

Tristan G. Brown
Tristan G. Brown  |  Abstract
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.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Columbia University  -  The Western Muslim Frontier Corridor in the Making of Modern China, 1684 to 1928

Yubin Shen
Yubin Shen  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores the origin and development of tropical medicine in twentieth- century China. Based on multinational archives, it argues that tropical medicine’s emergence as a distinct discipline in China is neither a product of colonial expansion, nor merely an agenda of modern nation-state building, as its Euro-American-Japanese counterparts have been regarded in the history of medicine, but rather results from complicated global networks of different groups of actors, including Chinese/foreign regimes, institutions, physicians, and merchants, serving different agendas. By bringing the global network perspective into my analysis, this dissertation also attempts to further broaden our understanding of twentieth-century China in global perspective.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Georgetown University  -  Global Networks and the Making of Tropical Medicine in Modern China, 1910 to 1980

Austin Dean
Austin Dean  |  Abstract
This project investigates the global history of money minting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with a specific focus on efforts to create a standardized silver coin in China that would be accepted by count rather than weight. It seeks to provide new perspectives on the power of the Chinese state in the 19th century, how political leaders and ordinary citizens tried to understand and exert control over globalization as well as the links between money, modernity and nationalism. This project examines the most basic of human interactions: the frictions involved in the moment of exchange when one party parts with goods and the other with money and how states came to exercise more control over this exchange in the late 19th century.

Doctoral Candidate, History, The Ohio State University  -  A Coin for China? Minting Money and Modernity in the Late Qing Dynasty, 1870 to 1912

Myra M. Sun
Myra M. Sun  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores the hitherto unspecified role of editing in the modern reconstruction of textual authority and literary authorship. By examining the complex cultural enterprise of editing, I trace the rise of a flourishing design culture during the 1920s, when progressive reformists actively experimented with new media technologies in advancing their claims to literary modernity. Combining methods of social history, literary criticism, and media studies, my project will reconstruct the historical moment of rupture and recalibration of literary practice to argue that a critical reconfiguration of symbolic power took place amongst editors, authors, and publishers, and that literary authorship emerged by the mid-1930s as a dominant and highly marketable form of creative labor.

Doctoral Candidate, Modern Chinese Literature, Columbia University  -  Cover to Cover: Editing, Authorship, and the Media Making of New Literature in Republican China, 1916 to 1937

Jin Li
Jin Li  |  Abstract
This project will explore the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in post-Communist China. Through analyses of how Nyingma Tibetans have invoked their treasure tradition to convert ordinary Chinese people, this project seeks to understand how particular forms of Buddhist subjectivities are brought into being through people’s encounters with discourses and material objects. A second, closely related goal will be to give an account of how these religious subjects in turn infuse the landscape between Tibet and China with the magical quality of treasure. This project will investigate how an understanding of subject formation is important for understanding Buddhist revival in Tibet and China.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Treasure, Conversion and Subjectivity: The Spread of Tibetan Buddhism in Post-Communist China

Chen-cheng Wang
Chen-cheng Wang  |  Abstract
My dissertation elucidates a politics of GMD local statecraft in which people, confined and motivated by some common cultural/social factors, not only contended for power and resources to fulfill specific versions of local statecraft, but also explored new political identities, behaviors, and ideas about what fell under the heading of “politics” itself. In doing so, my research concentrates on three sets of relationships: the interaction between the GMD’s preferred mode of ruling and their experiences on the ground; the mutual emulation of the GMD and CCP; and intra-Party conflict between more politically-oriented and more technocratic cadres.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of California, Irvine  -  The Politics of Local Statecraft in Nationalist China

Zhiying Ma
Zhiying Ma  |  Abstract
At the critical historical moment of national mental health law reform, this study examines how the medico-legal regime configures the family's everyday practices of care; how people draw on different sociocultural imaginaries of the family to negotiate the direction of the post-socialist state's governance; and how familial ethics of care supplement, resist, or transform the institutional politics of normalization. I combine ethnographic analysis of hospital care and community mental health outreach with historical analysis of the legislation process and the public debates. In so doing, this study will help us understand the historical multiplicities and transformations of intimate governance in contemporary China during the age of global welfare devolution.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Chicago  -  Intimate Politics and Ethics of Care: Mental Health Law Reform and Family Practices in Contemporary China

Angela Xiao Wu
Angela Xiao Wu  |  Abstract
Based on in-depth interviews and documentary research, this project explores the microprocesses whereby people become political actors through their Internet use in China. It studies the history of media practices among a group of early Internet users who belonged to the avid audience of the short-lived Bullog.cn, then the edgiest, liberal-oriented blog portal. It investigates what kind personal trajectory accompanied the rise of alternative political understandings, and how these use patterns transformed people’s daily lives. It provides insights into how communication technologies, through reconfiguring the information regime and sites of socialization, may be implicated in the establishment of a local democratic culture in authoritarian regimes.

Doctoral Candidate, Media, Technology, and Society, Northwestern University  -  Uses of the Chinese Internet: Everyday Media Practices and Political Subject-Formation among China’s Early Web Surfers

Thomas Ptak
Thomas Ptak  |  Abstract
This research investigates the various implications associated with the drive to create energy at the local-scale in Southwest Yunnan. Centering on the village of Dimaluo in the Nujiang Valley region, the project examines how small-scale energy development projects socially and economically influence local people's everyday life. Subsequently analyses examine how these projects reshape state-society dynamics in peripheral China. New insights generated as a result of this research will be used to further understand the broader implications of uneven development and wealth disparities throughout China.

Doctoral Candidate, Geography, University of Oregon  -  Small is Beautiful: Dam Construction and the Hydropolitics of Energy Development in Yunnan, China

Taomo Zhou
Taomo Zhou  |  Abstract
My dissertation project is a study in international and transnational relations with the focus on China and Indonesia during the Cold War. At the level of state-to-state relations, Beijing and Jakarta formulated policies and conducted negotiations concerning the overseas Chinese in Indonesia. Meanwhile, the Chinese living in Indonesia, who numbered 2,500, 000 by the 1950s and 1960s, reacted to these policies and became involved as targets and as active participants in anti-Chinese political movements in Indonesia. My ultimate goal is to analyze the interaction between political leaders’ decision making in international diplomacy and overseas Chinese actions in transnational movements.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Cornell University  -  International and Transnational China during the Cold War: People's Republic of China and Indonesia,1949 to 1967