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


My research explores the relationship between family life and the law in modern China, often through the lens of crime. I am presently completing a book on the trafficking of people in North China during the late Qing and Republican period. Transactions in people remained an intimate and essential part of life for many throughout this time of transition. In this book I demonstrate that despite traffickers most frequent protestations poverty was not solely to blame. Traditional Chinese family structure itself enabled a highly flexible market for everyone from slaves, servants, wives, concubines, wet nurses, prostitutes, private drivers, funeral musicians, and apprentice street performers.

My next project will introduce the concept of legal literacy in the early twentieth century. In this new area of research, I ask a question with special resonance for China today: 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? These research endeavors build upon longstanding interests. Between college and graduate school I worked in the field of human rights advocacy, serving as an interpreter and assistant to Chinese activists. Prior to joining the University of Chicago I taught in the Department of History and Classical Studies at McGill University.


—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]