Thomas Chan

Assistant Professor, Department of History

Department of History

  • (812) 855-6934
  • Ballantine Hall 807
    1020 E Kirkwood Ave
    Bloomington, IN47405
  • Office Hours
    M onday
    by appointment
    T uesday
    by appointment
    W ednesday
    by appointment
    Th ursday
    by appointment
    F riday
    by appointment
IU; IU Bloomington

Full Biography

I am an interdisciplinary historian of modern China specializing in the intertwined histories of medicine, cultural production, political violence, and state formation. I have special interests in drugs, violence, and popular culture. Thematically, I am interested in how governments use science and culture to turn marginalized people into expendable populations and persuade people to participate in intra-communal violence.

My research challenges conventional accounts of mass campaigns in China as irrationally destructive and argues that governments used anti-narcotics campaigns to draw ordinary people into the project of building new political communities. I show how the governments of both the Republic of China (1912-1949) and People’s Republic of China (PRC, 1949-) drew on scientific expertise and techniques of population management to create new senses of political and social belonging. My current book project, From Users to Criminals: Creating, Pathologizing, and Killing ‘Drug Criminals’ in Twentieth Century China, analyzes how from 1906 to 1953 both governments dehumanized drug users and traffickers to encourage collective identity formation and promote state-building.

My next book project, tentatively titled Blood and Wine is an interdisciplinary history of technology, labor, and violence that examines the development of Maotai, China’s national liquor during the early years of the PRC.

My broader research interests also include histories of science and medicine, Sinophone films, and a history of the Taikoo sugar refinery and its efforts to bridge Hong Kong with spaces across China and the Pacific basin. My work has appeared in the edited volume, Locating Taiwan Cinema in the Twenty-First Century.

I received my PhD from the University of California, San Diego. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the Fulbright Program, and the Esherick-Ye Family Foundation among others, have supported my work.