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. 

Clark L. Alejandrino
Clark L. Alejandrino  |  Abstract
My dissertation seeks to reconstruct typhoon events, their societal impacts, and responses in coastal China from the 17th to the 20th century. It shows when, where, how often, in what intensity, and in what patterns did typhoons strike China and argues that their seasonal regularity made typhoons play a role in the governance, economy, society, and culture along the coast. Continuities and changes occurred between the Qing, Republican, and Communist periods as centuries-old ways of understanding typhoons interacted with new modes of meteorology, disaster relief, and social and political organization. Arriving at a historical understanding of typhoon history is important to a China that continues to face potentially greater typhoons in an age of human-induced global warming.

Doctoral Student, History, Georgetown University  -  Storm Clouds Over China: Storms, Typhoons, and Society on Coastal Late Imperial and Modern China

Yitzchak Y. Jaffe
Yitzchak Y. Jaffe  |  Abstract
My dissertation reexamines the established historical narrative regarding the initial expansion of the Western Zhou polity following the conquest of the Shang in the 11 century BC. While great advancements have been made in the reconstruction of the Western Zhou history, they have not provided clear histories of regionally specific developments. Instead they have mostly emphasized the achievements of the Zhou in conquest and viewed this process as an assimilation of the local peoples into Zhou society. Analyzing archaeological manifestations of mortuary and culinary practices, I seek to investigate regional-specific cases of cultural exchange and the process through which the Western Zhou expansion created new forms of localized social identities.

Doctoral Student, Anthropology, Harvard University  -  Negotiating the Frontier- Uncovering Regional Variation in the Early Western Zhou Expansion (1046 to 771 BCE)

Mark Baker
Mark Baker  |  Abstract
The foundational argument of this dissertation is that cities cannot be studied in isolation from each other or from their hinterlands. It first uncovers the changing relationship between two cities in Henan: the booming railway town of Zhengzhou and the more sedately-growing administrative seat of Kaifeng. The project then asks the key discursive and material questions of rural-urban relations in modern China. It explores how rural areas were imagined in city discourse, before examining the effects of railroad construction, urban growth and commercialization on the urban fringe and in the immediate rural hinterland of these two cities. Putting these issues in local context suggests that the rural-urban divide in modern China was less clear-cut than has usually been thought.

Doctoral Student, History, Yale University  -  Rural-Urban Margins on the Central Plains: Zhengzhou, Kaifeng and the Henan Hinterland, 1890 to 1954

Ulug Kuzuoglu
Ulug Kuzuoglu  |  Abstract
My research explores how studies of the human mind have affected greater state policies concerning the reform of ethnic minorities’ languages and scripts in the People’s Republic of China in the 1950s and 60s. After the PRC was founded in 1949, hundreds of psychologists and linguists made their ways into the fringes of the nation and established “Psychological Committees” next to “Language and Script Committees.” They engineered new scripts for the minorities and launched large-scale literacy campaigns. Examining the orthographic tumult in Xinjiang when the Arabic script of the Turco-Muslim minorities was first Cyrillized in 1956, then Romanized in 1964, and then re-Arabized again in 1982, my research investigates how psychological research informed the implementation of script reforms.

Doctoral Student, History, Columbia University  -  Inventing the Mind: Colonial Psychology and Minority Script Reforms, 1950s to 1960s

Darren T. Byler
Darren T. Byler  |  Abstract
"Following a series of riots in 2009, officials of Ürümchi, an ethnically-diverse border city in Northwest China, announced plans to resettle 250,000 minority inhabitants from “slums” to state-subsidized public housing and multi-million yuan investments in art projects across the city which address goals of "harmony" and "development." Routing my research through Uyghur and Han art collectives that have been created as supplements to urban renewal, this project will focus on the lived experience and cultural expression of cityscape revision. Aimed at the intersection of urban studies, expressive culture, minority and migration politics, it will consider how the lived experience of late-Socialist Chinese urban planning gives rise to new forms of sociality and aesthetics.

Doctoral Student, Anthropology, University of Washington  -  The Art of Life in Ürümchi: Aesthetics, Minoritarian Politics and the City in Chinese Central Asia

Ho Chak Law
Ho Chak Law  |  Abstract
My dissertation investigates the evolution of presenting, representing, and perceiving Chinese opera through cinema. It is an ethnomusicological study of music and cinema that explicates how technological mediation, changing modes of reception, sociopolitical transformations, material conditions, and censorship affected or even determined Chinese opera’s cinematic presence as a manifestation of Chinese translated modernity.

Doctoral Student, Ethnomusicology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Cinematizing Opera or Theatricalizing Cinema?: Chinese Opera on the Silver Screen, 1905 to 1976

Annie Chan
Annie Chan  |  Abstract
An important propagator of the Central Asian historical discourse in the last century is archaeological findings related to the evolution of pastoral societies across the extensive landmass. This empirical recognition of the historical ‘other’ has furthered the understanding of the socioeconomic mechanisms rooted in the inseparable relationship among humans, animals and the environment, and challenged the theoretical underpinning for material diffusions. This study aims to identify functional and stylistic traits of technologies that can be ascribed to Bronze Age pastoralists in two pools of archaeological evidence from Xinjiang. It questions how technologies effected cultural and economic sustainability to better characterize pastoral behaviors and the steppe-sown technological osmosis.

Doctoral Student, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania  -  Technologies and the Sustainability of Pastoral Subsistence: Archaeological Evidence from Bronze Age Xinjiang

Teng Li
Teng Li  |  Abstract
This dissertation will be about the transition of property law in rural areas of Northeast China and Taiwan between 1945 and 1952. Across different historical periods and regimes, peasants’ land ownership and their concept about property experienced substantial changes. This dissertation project will provide answers to two questions: (1) how successful GMD was in bringing the post-colonial Northeast China and Taiwan out of the influence of Japanese property law; and (2) how CCP and GMD engaged law differently when they imposed their preferred structures of land ownership in Northeast China and Taiwan – essences of which still stand today.

Doctoral Student, History, Northwestern University  -  Peasants and Their Law: Land Ownership and Legal Culture in Post-Colonial Northeast China and Taiwan, 1945 to 1952

Devin Fitzgerald
Devin Fitzgerald  |  Abstract
My dissertation traces the circulation of news about the Ming-Qing (1644-1660) conflict through global information networks in order to chart the ways in which the “barbarian” Manchu invasion of China influenced global understanding of China’s position in the world. By drawing together sources in several European and Asian languages, this dissertation will show that the circulation of information about the Ming-Qing conflict within China and globally resulted in new understandings of geographical and cultural “China” that were directly impacted by Manchu sponsored narratives of the conquest.

Doctoral Student, History and East Asian Languages, Harvard University  -  Global News, Information, and the Qing Remaking of China

Thomas Peng
Thomas Peng  |  Abstract
This research focuses on the “urban villages” – inner city poor neighborhoods and enclaves for internal migrant workers – in China. The high geographical mobility and precarious employment of the residents makes the life in an urban village extremely atomized, and communal life seems unlikely. Against this background, this research asks: how collective consciousness, or sense of community, can be formed in this highly atomized life? Given the demographic composition of the residents, a second question follows: what will be the content of their collective consciousness? Is it going to be immigrant identity, class identity, or both? How are the two types of identity interwoven? An ethnographic research of daily-life interaction and social boundaries will be done to answer these questions.

Doctoral Student, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley  -  The Everyday Life Formation of Collective Consciousness in Contemporary Chinese Urban Villages

Xiaofei Gao
Xiaofei Gao  |  Abstract
This dissertation project undertakes a historical examination of maritime Manchuria, in order to explore role of seaborne interactions in shaping historical processes of social, commercial, and cultural exchange that transcend the boundaries of nation-states across the long twentieth century. The project probes the ways that seaborne activities intensified processes of integration in East Asia, while introducing differentiation within coastal communities and promoting degradation of the marine environment and violence. The underlying argument of this work is that much nation building, region making, as well as marine environmental transformation, was dependent on the seas and those who made their living from them along the Manchurian coast and what I am calling the "Bohai/Yellow Sea Rim."

Doctoral Student, History, University of California, Santa Cruz  -  Maritime Manchuria, 1898 to 2011

Carolyn S. Powers
Carolyn S. Powers  |  Abstract
After the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, psychiatrists discovered that methods of treating psychological trauma offered to them by western colleagues were inadequate for treating Chinese patients, and have pushed for the Bentuhua or “localization” of psychotherapy in China. Through ethnography, I will investigate how the practice of localization of treatment functions as a creative extension of previous conceptual frameworks in psychotherapy to fit new circumstances. This research engages the question of how psychiatric knowledge must change when it is used in a Chinese context. I further hope to contribute insight into the role that the localization of psychotherapy plays in the larger historical (post-colonial and post-socialist) context of adapting western healing practices.

Doctoral Student, Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis  -  The Localization of Psychotherapeutic Treatment Knowledge in Post-Disaster West China

Amy Gordanier
Amy Gordanier  |  Abstract
Opera played an essential part in the social and ritual life of China, a staple at celebrations and religious festivals and a favored entertainment of rich and poor alike. At the same time, as an art reliant on groups of trained, living actors to bring it to life with each performance, opera in the late imperial period was shaped by the growing possibilities for spatial mobility in an increasingly economically and administratively integrated empire. This project will study the movements of performers and performance styles across space and boundaries of regional and social affiliation during the Qing Dynasty, placing opera in conjunction with scholarship on mercantile and administrative networks to explore how, why, and where actors and other members of itinerant trades took to the road.

Doctoral Student, History, University of California, Los Angeles  -  Shows on the Road: Professional Networks and Opera Performance in Qing China

Yidi Wu
Yidi Wu  |  Abstract
My dissertation examines Chinese student reactions to the 1957 Rectification Campaign, and its historical resonance with landmark years such as 1919 and 1989. I choose three universities across China to show how different local cultures affect student behaviors in political movements, and seek voices from activists and non-activists alike to illuminate the spectrum of participation in the student movement. Drawing upon archival documents and oral histories, my project investigates a nearly forgotten episode of student movement in the early Maoist era, and contributes to a better understanding of student activism beyond activist narratives and social movements in illiberal political settings.

Doctoral Student, History, University of California, Irvine  -  Blooming, Contending and Staying Silent: Student Activism and Campus Politics in China, 1957

Koji Hirata
Koji Hirata  |  Abstract
Drawing upon sources in Chinese, Japanese, English, and Russian, my dissertation will examine the history of Anshan, a steel-industry city in northeast China, between 1909 and 1966. It raises three questions: 1) how state authorities interacted with the managers and the physical infrastructure of the industrial enterprises; 2) in what transnational and local settings Chinese and foreign scientists and engineers worked; 3) how a new urban space was made and remade by state-led industrialization. By this case study, I will argue that to fully understand the origins of the PRC economic system, one must investigate what the Japanese colonizers did in the Northeast and how the Nationalists and the Communists reintegrated the region into China’s national economy after Japan’s surrender.

Doctoral Student, History, Stanford University  -  Steel Metropolis: Developmental State, Technology Transfer, and Urban Space in Northeast China, 1906 to 1966

Dongxin Zou
Dongxin Zou  |  Abstract
My project examines how Chinese medical professionals traveling to North Africa from 1963 onward produced and transferred medical and social knowledge between the two places. Based on oral interviews and archival sources located in China, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, I will explore how the medical missionaries by working abroad created professional legitimacy and social autonomy in a highly politicized Chinese society. Engaging with studies of postcolonial global medicine, Sino-African relations, and socialist revolutions, my work not only complicates the conventional description of the Mao era as one of “self-imposed isolation” but also introduces the role of global medical encounters in local reconstructions of alternative modernity in China and Africa.

Doctoral Student, History, Columbia University  -  A Health Care Odyssey: Chinese Medical Missions in North Africa, 1963 to 2013