I am a historian of modern China, with a particular interest in how information, ideas, and practices were produced, transmitted, and consumed across different societies in East Asia. My research has revolved around the relations between knowledge, commerce, and political authority after 1800.
My book Pirates and Publishers: A Social History of Copyright in Modern China (Princeton University Press, 2019) explores how copyright was understood, appropriated, codified and, most importantly, practiced by the Chinese as a new legal doctrine from the 1890s through the 1950s, a time of profound sociopolitical changes. Drawing on a vast range of previously underutilized archival sources, I challenge the conventional wisdom about the incompatibility of copyright with Chinese culture and show instead how authors and publishers fought to establish their claims and protect their livelihoods. The book also brings an economic (and business) perspective on modern Chinese cultural and intellectual history.
My next book project continues with the questions of cultural production, consumerism, and information regulation in the broader context of revolution and nation building. Tentatively entitled Phantoms of Empire: China’s Post-Imperial Fantasies, it examines the commonly-seen but rarely-discussed motif of “empire,” or diguo in Chinese, in Chinese popular culture from the late Qing empire to the present.
My broader research interests also include history of economic life, micro legal history, censorship, and domesticity. Combining my passion in history and in cooking, I also have been working on a history of MSG (monosodium glutamate) and the politics of home cooking in East Asia.