Associate Professor of History and the College

Affiliated Faculty, Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies
Faculty Member, Center for East Asian Studies

PhD'08 Yale University
AB'97 Amherst College

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 E. 59th Street, Mailbox 74
Chicago, IL 60637

Social Science Research Building, room 219 – Office
(773) 834-2014 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax

Field Specialti​es

Modern China; Chinese legal history; crime; history of the family; comparative unfreedoms


Johanna S. Ransmeier 任思梅 is a social and legal historian of modern China. Her current research investigates the expansion of legal literacy and the development of a Chinese legal imagination during times of revolutionary change. In this project, she asks what happens when citizens’ legitimate expectations of the law get ahead of the ability of legal institutions to deliver on the promise of new legislation or legal innovations? What makes the law a site of both soaring aspiration and crushing disappointment? She also studies the surprising ways crime and the law intersect with family life in China. Her first book Sold People: Traffickers and Family Life in North China (Harvard University Press, 2017) exposed the transactional foundations of traditional family structures and the role of human trafficking in late Qing and Republican China.  She is a fellow with the National Committee on US China Relations Public Intellectuals Program (Cohort V) and was a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica in Taiwan. Before joining the University of Chicago, she was a member of the department of History and Classical Studies at McGill University. She currently serves as co-chair of the faculty board of the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights.


—Receives 2022 Quantrell Award
—Named a fellow in the Public Intellectuals Program of the National Committee on US-China Relations
—Coorganizes "Human Trafficking, Labor Migration, and Migration Control in Comparative Historical Perspective" conference, Pozen Family Center for Human Rights
Discusses Chinese Human Traficking and Slavery during the Late Qing and Republican Periods [video, 5 minutes]