A historian of China, Tibet and ethnicity in modern China, I have visited, lived, and traveled in China extensively since I first taught at Yunnan University in 1989. In 2023, I returned to China to join NYU Shanghai as Dean of Arts and Sciences. Founded as a joint venture between New York University and East China Normal University, NYU Shanghai offers a China-centered liberal arts education committed to NYU's global vision of transformative teaching and innovative research.
Committed to promoting the specialized knowledge of China outside of academia, I have been active in a variety of national and international programs promoting awareness of China. I was one of 20 individuals accepted in the fourth cohort (2014-16) to join the National Committee of US-China Relations’ Public Intellectual Program. In 2020-21 I served a resident fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C. (2020-21) Most recently, I was selected as a CUSP (China-US Program) Fellow (2022).
Over the past two decades, I have taught a broad range of undergraduate and graduate courses on China, Tibet and a popular introduction to World History to 1500 inspired by Neil MacGregor's History of the World in 100 Objects. My commitment to teaching is not limited to my classroom instruction. Having lamented the lack of quality materials on Chinese history, I have worked with several publishers to contribute to scholarship that advances the teaching of Asian history. I co-authored with Yurong Yang Atwill, Sources in Chinese History: Diverse Perspectives from 1644 to the Present with Prentice-Hall in 2009. Widely used and adopted, the sourcebook was re-issued in 2021as a heavily revised 2nd edition with Routledge that included new documents, new translations and new visual sources.
In addition to our sourcebook, my essays, articles and reports have appeared in a variety of venues including most recently Journal of Asian Studies, Cahiers d’Extrême Asie, and Himalaya. My early research largely centered on the ethno-religious identity of the Muslim Chinese (or Hui) in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan culminating in the publication of The Chinese Sultanate: Islam, Ethnicity and the Panthay Rebellion in Southwestern China, 1856-1873 (Stanford University Press, 2006). This work will be republished in 2023 by Verso under the title The Panthay Rebellion: Islam, Ethnicity, the Dali Sultanate, 1856-73 with a preface written by Tariq Ali.
In 2018, I published my second monograph, Islamic Shangri-la: Inter-Asian Relations and Lhasa's Muslim Communities, 1600-1960 (University of California Press), a sweeping re-examination of Tibet's unique trans regional positioning in the South Asian, Himalayan and Chinese worlds -- a work largely supported by a Mellon New Directions Fellowship.
I am just completing my third monograph, a biography on Lin Zexu, a Chinese imperial official largely known for his role in the Opium War (1839-42). Entitled Lin Zexu: Imperial China in a Globalizing World the book is tentatively scheduled to be published next year in Oxford University Press.
PhD, University of Hawai'i, 1999
MA, University of Hawai'i, 1994
BA, Whitman College, 1989
Fields of Research:
Late Imperial, Republican, PRC China
Inter Asian History
Islam and Asia
Ethnic History (民族史)