HIST 13U: Asian Diasporas in Global History

Michael Szonyi and Sunil Amrith

The goal of this seminar is to help you appreciate the ways in which our world has been shaped by mass migration, and in particular two great currents of migration originating in what are now China and South Asia. These currents of migration and their consequences have never been fully integrated into dominant national historical narratives, neither those of the places from which migrants came nor the places to which they went. In the United States, while migration has to some degree become part of the national narrative, it is migration from Europe that is seen as the standard against which other migrations are measured. The seminar explores many aspects of migration that are mostly unfamiliar: the sophisticated cultural institutions and adaptations among migrant communities, the diverse patterns of interaction in the societies in which migrants settle and their descendants live, and the ways in which migration affects not just migrants themselves, but the communities from which they depart, their descendants, and the larger society in which they settle.

Literature and Culture

AESTHINT 47: Forbidden Romance in Modern China

David Der-wei Wang

This course introduces a unique dimension of Chinese modernity: amorous engagement in fiction and lived experience, its discursive and visual representations, and its institutional implementation (gender, marriage, family, law, nation/state, etc.), censorship, and transgression. It examines how the modern lure of free will and emancipated subjectivity drove Chinese to redefine terms of affect, such as love, feeling, desire, passion, sexuality, loyalty, dedication, revolution and sacrifice. It also looks into how the moral, legal and political consequences of affect were evoked in such a way as to traverse or fortify consensual boundaries and their manifestations.

AESTHINT 63: East Asian Cinema

Jie Li

This course introduces major works, genres, and waves of East Asian cinema from the silent era to the present, including films from Mainland China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. We will discuss issues ranging from formal aesthetics to historical representation, from local film industries to transnational audience reception. This course does not assume prior knowledge of East Asian culture or of film studies, but rather seeks to provide students with a basic understanding of modern East Asian cultural history through cinema, and with an essential toolkit for analyzing film and media, including narrative, cinematography, editing and sound. In addition to critical approaches, students are strongly encouraged to creatively respond to course materials by collaborating on their own short films, beginning with the illustration of film terms in the first two weeks and culminating in the Oscar-like “Golden Monkey Awards.”

Religion and Philosophy

CULTBLF 33: East Asian Religions: Traditions and Transformations

James Robson

This course provides an introduction to the study of East Asian religions. It covers the development of Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism and Shinto. It is not a comprehensive survey, but is designed around major conceptual themes, such as ritual, image veneration, mysticism, meditation, death, and category formation in the study of religion. The emphasis throughout the course is on the hermeneutic difficulties attendant upon the study of religion in general, and East Asian religions in particular.

ETHRSON 20: The Conduct of Life in Western and Eastern Philosophy

Michael Puett and Roberto Mangabeira Unger

A study of approaches in the philosophical traditions of the West and the East to the conduct of life. Philosophical ethics has often been understood as meta-ethics: the development of a method of moral inquiry or justification. Here we focus instead on what philosophy has to tell us about the first-order question: How should we live our lives?This year a major concern will be the study and contrast of two such orientations to existence.  One is the philosophical tradition focused on ideas of self-reliance, self-construction, and nonconformity (exemplified by Emerson and Nietzsche).  The other is a way of thinking (notably represented by Confucius) that puts its hope in a dynamic of mutual responsibility, shaped by role and ritual and informed by imaginative empathy.

Social Studies

SOC-STD 68CT: The Chinese Immigrant Experience in America

Nicole Newendorp

Uses the history of Boston’s Chinatown as a case study to examine the experiences of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. from the 1880s until the present. Employs historical, anthropological, and sociological perspectives to examine major themes related to the social and economic development of U.S. Chinatowns and Chinese immigrant communities throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. This course is an Engaged Scholarship course, limited to students who are concurrently participating in a Harvard-affiliated service program in or around Boston’s Chinatown. Class discussions and assignments will make active links with students’ service work. 



ECON 1310: The Economy of China

Richard Cooper

This course critically examines China’s remarkable economic performance in the post-Mao era and places this performance in historical and comparative context. Topics covered include China’s economic structure, institutions, inequality, trade, population, and public policy.


EASTD 196: Political Geography of China

Daniel Koss

Putting Chinese politics on the map, this course asks how the government deals with the enormous challenges of ruling over a vast terrain with a diverse population, encompassing super-rich urban metropolises as well as poor rural peripheries. We begin with statecraft traditions from the late imperial era; and end with China’s place on the future global maps of the 21st century. Topics include: macro-regions; priority zones of governance; Special Economic Zones; the Chinese equivalent of “blue states and red states;” rising inequality; ethnic minorities and borderlands; economic development models; urbanization and city planning; collective action in digital space; domestic and international migration; environmental politics; and the geo-politics of the “One Belt One Road” initiative.


HIST 1602: Modern China

Arunabh Ghosh

This lecture course will provide a survey of some of the major issues in the history of post-imperial China (1912- ). Beginning with the decline of the Qing and the dramatic collapse of China’s imperial system in 1911, the course shall examine how China has sought to redefine itself anew over the past one-hundred years.

HIST 1959: The People’s Republic of China and the World

Julian Gewirtz

This seminar will examine the history of the People’s Republic of China’s relations, struggles, and interconnections with the wider world since its founding in 1949. Spanning the dramatic upheavals of revolution and the Cold War, the profitable transformations of “reform and opening,” and China’s reemergence as a global power, this course centers on the ways in which China’s leaders have understood and interacted with the world outside their borders since 1949. 

History of Art and Architecture

HAA 83: Buddhist Monuments

Jinah Kim, Yukio Lippit, and Eugene Wang

This introductory lecture course examines architectural monuments of the Buddhist world, including sites in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, Central Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. Roughly following the history and development of Buddhism in chronological sequence, the course explores pertinent topics in the study of Buddhist monuments, such as cosmology, pilgrimage, ritual, materiality, relics, meditation, world-making, and the relationship between Buddhism and local religions. Through Buddhist sites scattered throughout time and space, students will learn about the rich, diverse world of Buddhist practice and experience.


TIBET 156: Tibetan Environmental Humanities: Klong chen Rab ‘byams pa’s (1308-1364) Bsam gtan ngal gso

Leonard van der Kuijp

This course examines Klong chen Rab ‘byams pa’s Bsam gtan ngal gso which addresses, in an almost unique way, the impact different environments have on the meditator and her/his meditative practice. We will be reading this work together with its auto-commentary and cognates.


RELIGION 1736: Forms of Life: Buddhist Ethics for a Posthuman World

Janet Gyatso

This course will bring Buddhist ethics into conversation with contemporary “posthuman” studies.  It will take as its starting point Buddhist scriptural sources that explore notions of life (āyuḥ and related terms), compassion, interdependence, and karma, and attempt to think these through in light of current questions in interspecies ethics and connected issues around life on this planet.  In so doing it will draw upon Buddhist and/or contemporary critical theory in such diverse areas as history of medicine, animal studies, continental philosophy, biopolitics, systems of bodily and moral cultivation, etiquette, aesthetics, and the phenomenology of perception — all in service of developing a virtue ethics for a posthuman future.



HIS 4344: Modern Architecture and Urbanism in China

Peter Rowe

Modernizing influences, largely from the hands of foreign powers, first forcefully entered China in the aftermath of the Opium War and signing of the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842. Since then, China endured a stormy if not tumultuous course of events before finding itself with burgeoning modern industrialization and urbanization during the contemporary era, as well as a certain ambivalence about the shape of its future identity. Against this historical backdrop, modern architecture and urbanism developed spasmodically, before emerging strongly during the past decade or so. Rather than attempting to provide a continuous and cohesive narrative of these developments, this seminar will concentrate on significant episodes during the last 150 or so years.


ECON 2342: China Economy Seminar

Richard B. Freeman

This seminar provides a forum for faculty, graduate students, and research fellows in economics and other fields to present and discuss research and scholarship on the economic and social transformation of China. The seminar will give special attention to the environmental, technological, and social changes that are accompanying China’s extraordinary economic development and to the links between Chinese and US economies.


DPI 450: The Political Economy of Transition in China

Tony Saich

China’s incremental reforms have been compared favorably as a transition strategy with the “shock therapy” attempted in Eastern Europe and Russia. Reality is more complex, progress is mixed, and the country is now facing major challenges from delayed reforms, especially in the industrial and financial sectors. How are the state’s priorities set? Relevant theories on socioeconomic development and transitions will be analyzed through a detailed study of the policymaking process in China. China provides an interesting empirical testing ground for comparative theory, as it has moved from a statist model of development to one that makes greater use of market forces within an authoritarian political structure. The course first evaluates China’s evolving development strategies. Second, it analyzes the politics of the current transition, with detailed discussion of economic and social policy formulation and implementation.

IGA 685: Negotiating U.S. Interests in an Evolving Asia Pacific

John Park

This course is designed to introduce students to complex security, political, and economic issues in the Asia Pacific region. The United States has traditionally been the true north to which allies and partners have calibrated their respective policies. With the re-emergence of China, countries in the region are now affected by the fact that there are two true norths — an incumbent one and a re-emergent one. Utilizing in-class simulations, the course will analyze how the U.S. employs its core policy tools — diplomatic, political, economic, and military — to negotiate its interests in the evolving Asia Pacific region. Key simulations will focus on efforts to peacefully denuclearize North Korea, promote regional free trade, and prevent an escalation of tensions in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.


CHNSHIS 270B: Research Methods in Late Imperial Chinese History II: Seminar

Michael A. Szonyi

Continued training in sources and methods for research in the history of late imperial China. Students will use original sources to write a research paper on a topic of their choosing.

CHNSHIS 234R: The Historiography of Early Chinese History

Michael Puett

A study of major trends in the history of scholarship on early China. The main focus will be on 20th-century scholarship, but earlier developments will be introduced where relevant.


HLS 2258: U.S. Trade Law and Economic Statecraft

Mark Wu

This course examines the laws underlying U.S. policymaking for trade. It explores the different means through which the U.S. has attempted to use trade agreements as well as unilateral measures to advance its economic and geostrategic interests. How is policy crafted among the different agencies and branches within the U.S. government? How have digital technology, offshoring, the rise of China, and the impasse in multilateral negotiations impacted U.S. interests and strategy?

HLS 2504: Law and China in the Age of Xi Jinping

Mark Jia

This course will examine developments in Chinese law since the ascension of President Xi Jinping in 2012. Topics will include new forms of courts and judicial guidance, anti-corruption campaign and policies, regulation of the legal profession, and constitutional amendments. The course will focus not merely on the technical details of particular developments but will use these developments as an entry point into discussing broader questions on the role of law in contemporary Chinese governance.

Literature and Culture

CHNSLIT 272: The Legacy of the May Fourth: A Critical Survey of Modern Chinese Literary Culture

David Der-wei Wang

Since the early 1920s, the May Fourth Movement has been presented as the harbinger of modern China in almost all domains. It has taken on a mythopoetic dimension, signaling the magical beginning of Chinese modernity. In particular, literature was celebrated as the cultural and sociopolitical institution through which the nation would be reformed and the Chinese mind re-formed. This approach is subject to review in the new millennium. The seminar seeks to take issue with the “legacy of May Fourth” by rethinking the conventional wisdom regarding the movement, from “enlightenment” to “revolution,” from “Mr. De” (democracy) to “Mr. Sai” (science), from nationhood to selfhood. Literature in a broad sense—fiction, poetry, biography, manifestos and political treatises, etc.—will be the avenue for our inquiry and contestation. We will also take into account issues related to the use and abuse of the May Fourth in terms of the Foucauldian production of the “truth regime.”

CHNSLIT 267R: Topics in Tang Literature: Seminar

Xiaofei Tian

This semester’s topic is Chinese eighth-century poetry and prose.

EABS 255: Readings on Chinese Religions: Recent Scholarship on Chinese Buddhism and Daoism: Seminar

James Robson

This seminar aims to discuss significant new works in the field of Chinese Religions by focusing on the historical, doctrinal, and philosophical development of the Buddhist tradition in China.

EAFM 220: Topics in Chinese Film and Media Studies: Seminar

Jie Li

This graduate seminar surveys the current field of Chinese cinema studies with a focus on film culture and historiography from the end of the 19th century to the start of the 21st century.  We will be asking three questions preoccupying film and media studies–What is cinema?  When is cinema?  Where is cinema?–in Chinese and Sinophone contexts.   Beyond the interpretation of film texts, we will also examine film production and exhibition, stars and audiences, genres and movements, technologies and infrastructures, propaganda and censorship, industries and markets, experiences and memories, transnational and transmedial connections.

COMPLIT 264: Thinking and Writing Transculturally

Karen Thornber

Explores approaches to transculturation in the production, reading, and study of literature in light of new understandings of human and textual movement and border-crossings. Topics include the ethics of dividing cultural products along ethnic, linguistic, and national lines on the one hand and classifying phenomena as global or universal on the other, and the ramifications of cross-cultural comparison. We also examine the relationship between creative production and such topics as empire, trauma, travel/migration/exile/diaspora, translingualism, translations/adaptation, intertextuality, and literary reconfiguration. 

Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies