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. 

He Bian
He Bian  |  Abstract
Formulaic literature (fangshu) constitutes one of the largest categories of printed texts in late imperial China, yet historians have largely considered recipes as of secondary importance to medical theory. Upon scrutiny, the seemingly simple act of sharing medical recipes in print can be parsed into a variety of sub-genres that evolved in time. In Ming-Qing times, medical recipes functioned as coveted cultural capital that enabled individuals to express their visions for personal and social well-being, opening up new spaces for historical interpretation. In this book project I will argue that the techniques of individual and social life documented in those pages should be considered an essential feature of Qing political culture during the long eighteenth-century (1680-1820).

Assistant Professor, History / East Asian Studies, Princeton University  -  The Formula of Happiness: Recipe Books, Lay Healing, and the Politics of Life in Eighteenth-Century China

Lihong Liu
Lihong Liu  |  Abstract
This book project provides a study of clear glass as a material medium and its environmental and epistemological implications in China from about the seventeenth century to the early twentieth century. It examines how clear glass was circulated globally and used in various forms including windows, mirrors, lanterns, coverings, paintings, apparatuses, and automata. By considering artistic expressions, cultural receptions, phenomenological and psychosomatic responses, and ecological appropriations, it discusses how clear glass instigated a new kind of human-environment relationship that reflected the agency of matter.

Assistant Professor, Art and Art History, University of Rochester  -  A Matter of Transparency and Metamorphosis: Clear Glass in China

Heng Du
Heng Du  |  Abstract
Recently excavated manuscripts have revealed the anonymous and fluid nature of early Chinese texts, discrediting their authorial claims and inciting scholarly debates. My monograph, “In Eternal Lines to Time,” offers a new approach by integrating research in disciplines confronted with similar disputes, ranging from book history to biblical criticism. It proposes a system for analyzing a text’s mode of existence based on whether or not its production and reception are meaningfully separated. This approach not only resolves the conflict between received and excavated sources, but also reconceptualizes the transformations in early Chinese elite textual practices (before 220 CE). Its interdisciplinary engagement demonstrates the relevance of early China to broader inquiries in the humanities.

Assistant Professor, East Asian Studies, University of Arizona  -  Weaving Text, Warping Time: How the Ontology of Text Shaped Early China

Stephanie Michelle Montgomery
Stephanie Michelle Montgomery  |  Abstract
My project examines state penal reform and actual living conditions of incarcerated women in Shanghai and Tianjin, China, during twenty-one years of Nationalist, Japanese, and Communist rule. I analyze archival court documents of lower-class women charged with non-political crimes, which in turn became research material for penologists and criminologists concerned with criminality and citizen-making. My research argues that planners and prison reform advocates understood women’s reform to be integral to successful state building in 20th-century China. This has implications for larger issues in the humanities, including our understanding of historical prison conditions, the lives of women inmates, and the treatment of vulnerable populations in modernizing societies.

Assistant Professor, History & Asian Studies, Saint Olaf College  -  Problem Women: Gender, Criminality, and the Prison in Republican China, 1928-1949

Ding Fei
Ding Fei  |  Abstract
My book unpacks the uneven geographies of capital-labor and expatriate-local relations at Chinese workplaces in Africa, drawing upon archives, interviews, oral histories, and workplace ethnographies in Chinese companies in Ethiopia. I examine the capacities and constraints of different strands of globalized Chinese capital in engaging with transnational production and labor management on the one hand, and the articulation of control, power, and agency at the workplace level in generating varied forms of empowerment and marginalization for expatriate and local employees on the other. The book contributes a meso-level understanding of how firms, places, and individuals pursue diverse yet highly contingent globalization trajectories under China-Africa cooperation.

Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University  -  Encountering “China in Africa” at Workplace

Tony Dahao Qian
Tony Dahao Qian  |  Abstract
This project analyzes narrative and rhetorical features of Chinese Ming dynasty (1368-1644) legal judgments and compares them to judgments from Joseon Korea (1392-1910). Previous studies on East Asian jurisprudence have examined the ways in which Joseon law was developed through reception and adaptation of Ming law. However, the application of the law to actual cases diverged among Chinese and Korean judges, and Ming and Joseon legal judgments took on distinctive features. By focusing on the narrative and rhetorical strategies that are found in these judgments, this project analyzes the relationship and tensions between formal law (codes, statutes, edicts, etc.), legal philosophy, and judicial decisions.

Lecturer, International Literary and Cultural Studies, Tufts University  -  Law’s Expressions: Narrative and Rhetorical Strategies in Ming and Joseon Legal Judgments

Yanlong Guo
Yanlong Guo  |  Abstract
Mirrors, predominantly made of bronze, were the most mass-produced amongst the decorative arts of the Han empire (202 B.C.E.-220 C.E.). As the abundant record of recently excavated material attests, the mirror industry expanded exponentially in the Han period. While current scholarship has established a reliable chronology, a database of inscriptions, and an iconographic repertoire, it has not adequately treated the specular discs as material things (wu)—and things that interacted with their beholders to create multiple layers of meaning. Employing an interdisciplinary approach that synthesizes art historical methods and anthropological theories, I foreground the materiality of Han mirrors to understand their dual status as gifts and commodities.

Assistant Professor, Art, Smith College  -  Consumption and Materiality: Bronze Mirrors in Han China Reconsidered

Yijun Wang
Yijun Wang  |  Abstract
My book discusses the connection between knowledge and power in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries through the lens of tin. Drawing on court memorials, mining treatises, archives of East Indian Companies, as well as museum collections, I track the itinerary of tin in the Qing empire and across the South China sea to examine how global trade and imperial expansion affected the knowledge production and transmission across regional boundaries. Moreover, I investigate how knowledge of mining, metalworking, and trade was transferred from miners, artisans, and merchants into the knowledge system of Qing bureaucrats, changing the culture of statecraft in Qing China from 1700 to 1850s. Broadly speaking, my book contributes to the understanding of technology and global empires.

Assistant Professor, History, New York University  -  From Craft to Statecraft: Knowledge Production, Transmission, and the Rise of Technocratic Culture in Qing China

Lauren Hansen Restrepo
Lauren Hansen Restrepo  |  Abstract
The Revanchist Center: Toward a Totalitarian Politics of Land in Xinjiang traces the shift in spatial development strategies from liberal to ethnocratic and finally to totalitarian in the two decades since the announcement of the Great Western Development project. It finds that, at multiple spatial scales, there has been a distinct re-alignment of power away from the units of the state tasked typically with urban and economic development – that is, district and municipal governments – and toward first Han-dominated institutions and then to the central state itself. While local residents have been silenced by the state, historical and contemporary maps, satellite imagery, and documentary data tell the story of the end of the brief liberal experiment in Xinjiang.

Assistant Professor, Growth and Structure of Cities, Bryn Mawr College  -  The Revanchist Center: Toward a Totalitarian Politics of Land in Xinjiang

Jinting Wu
Jinting Wu  |  Abstract
Children with special needs are by and large judged unfit in mainstream Chinese schools focused on academic performance. While China embraces disability inclusion, segregated special schools continue to exist and gain ever-stronger state support in recent decades. There, children with disabilities are isolated from regular school peers and grow up with stigma and bleak employment outcomes. Pairing archival and ethnographic research in two special schools in Guangdong Province, this study is among the first to empirically evaluate the mechanisms and ramifications of segregation in special education in China. It challenges the global inclusive rhetoric as a one-size-fits-all solution, and illuminates special schools as transient spaces of marginality and potentiality in today’s China.

Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy, University at Buffalo, State University of New York  -  Disability Segregation in an Age of Inclusion: Navigating Educational Pathways through Special Education Schools in Contemporary China

Brian G. Lander
Brian G. Lander  |  Abstract
The Yangzi River lowlands were once among the world's largest wetlands and a center of biodiversity, but are now mostly rice fields and carp ponds. This multidisciplinary book project reconstructs the changing ecology of the central Yangzi wetlands, which lie between Hubei and Hunan, from the domestication of rice to the construction of the Three Gorges dam. Water control lies at the heart of the story. Since these seasonal wetlands are dominated by the flood pulse of the summer monsoons, farmers and administrators had to build and maintain dikes to keep out the water. The book's chapters will cover natural ecology, prehistoric societies, early Chinese empires, the Ming-Qing population boom, and the modern infrastructure of the People's Republic of China.

Assistant Professor, History & Environmental Studies, Brown University  -  From Wetland to Farmland: the Ecological Transformation of the Central Yangzi Lowlands