I have taught at Penn State University since 2002 offering a broad range of 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 recent research has focused on the Tibetan Muslims, Lin Zexu, and 20th century High Asia.


My essays, articles and reports  have appeared in a variety of venues including most recently Journal of Asian StudiesCahiers 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). My most recent monograph, Islamic Shangri-la: Inter-Asian Relations and Lhasa's Muslim Communities, 1600-1960, was published in 2018 by the University of California Press. This work is part of a broader re-examination of China's interaction and political interest in Tibet, Xinjiang and southwest China.

In response to the demand for specialized knowledge of China outside of academia, I was accepted as one of 20 individuals to serve in the fourth cohort (2014-16) in the National Committee of US-China Relations’ Public Intellectual Program and was 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). At Penn State, I teach courses at both the graduate and undergraduate level. I also served as the Department of History's Director of Graduate Studies (2010-2014/2015-2017) and was awarded Graduate School Alumni Society Graduate Program Chair Leadership Award

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 recently re-issued in a heavily revised 2nd edition with Routledge that included new documents, new translations and new visual sources.

At present, I am completing a biography of the Chinese scholar-official Lin Zexu. Often presented as a stand-in for China’s putative xenophobia, Lin’s three decades-long career in China’s borderlands is testimony to a very different reality. Lin’s life opens a window onto the many global challenges Qing China faced in a rapidly changing world. Tentatively entitled Lin Zexu: Imperial China and a Globalizing World the manuscript is already under contract with 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)