Broadly, my research interests include the history of modern political thought (17th-19th century East Asian and European), comparative political theory, and intellectual history. I focus primarily on questions concerning empire, religion & politics, and international law.
Article & Working Papers
“Montesquieu’s Paradoxical Spirit of Moderation: On the Making of Asian Despotism in De l’esprit des lois“, Political Theory 46.6 (December 2018), 915-937.
“…To Master the Foreigners” – Sakuma Shozan on Building Imperial Wealth and Power”
“Using Knowledge of Foreign Conditions…” – Wei Yuan on Scholarship and Foreign Learning”
“Liberty’s Imperial Visions” – Tocqueville and Mill on China and the End of Empire
“Contested Empires”: Domination and Resistance in Nineteenth-Century China and Japan (Dissertation)
Committee members: Jennifer Pitts (Chair; UChicago, Political Science), Sankar Muthu (UChicago, Political Science), Susan Burns (UChicago, History), and Leigh Jenco (LSE, Political Science)
This project interrogates the bounds of empire by recovering neglected discourses of resistance to foreign domination in nineteenth century East Asia. During this period, European empires encountered several difficulties in expanding into East Asia, due in no small part to how actors like the Qing statecraft reformers and Tokugawa daimyo and political elite resisted Western colonial ambitions in these contested spaces. However, recent scholarly accounts have placed too much emphasis on how political elite in China and Japan either modernized technology or pushed for treaty re-negotiation, to the neglect of the broader discourses about domination that informed these efforts. By recovering these discourses around domination and resistance, this project unsettles conventional post-colonial histories of nineteenth-century empire, moves beyond narratives of “modernization” that have bedeviled East Asian political and economic histories for decades, and revises our conceptual understanding of empire in political theory, which has largely relied on a stark contrast between imperial domination and anti-colonial resistance. Drawing on an array of primary sources in classical and modern Chinese and Japanese—some of which have never been translated into English—I foreground the political thought of two influential East Asian scholar-officials: Wei Yuan (魏源, 1794-1856) and Sakuma Shozan (佐久間 象山, 1811-1864). I contend that their shared framework of “learning foreign conditions to master the foreigners” attempts to resist foreign imperial domination with the very same political, military, and economic infrastructures of empire (e.g. diplomatic negotiation, commercial trade, and advanced naval technology) used against Asia by Europe and the U.S. In short, Wei’s and Sakuma’s anti-colonial resistance cannot be understood apart from their efforts at imperial domination—a reality that challenges standard frameworks of imperial domination and anti-colonial resistance in the history of political thought.
I am also in the early stages of a project on Chinese governance and human flourishing in modern European political thought. This project explores the political theories of Chinese rule developed by prominent European intellectuals—figures like Leibniz, Montesquieu, Smith, Hegel, and Mill, among others—and unearths the enduring historical and conceptual stakes of Chinese arbitrary rule for modern and contemporary understandings of rule of law, economic development, and global governance.
My research has been supported by the Division of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, the U.S. Department of Education, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Mustard Seed Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the American Political Science Association, and the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago.