I research and write about the history of twentieth century Asia. My language expertise and archival experiences mostly have roots to China, but I hate to call myself just a “China guy.” I am continuously excited about new aspects and areas of history. My research and publication record probably shows that I am ready to cross borders in my research–from China to Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, the fuzzy areas in between and beyond.
Beyond geography, I am always gravitating toward new issues and ideas. I love unexpected finds in an archive–the documents that make you pause and reflect on issues which hadn’t really crossed your mind before. So far this approach has led me to write on topics such as ethnicity, migration, Cold War conflicts, orientalism, decolonization, urban history, American foreign policy, and even Coca-Cola. I expect this list to keep on growing.
The vantage point from which I write, moreover, shifts from high-politics to on-the-ground realities and I make pit stops everywhere in between. I’ve written about Mao Zedong’s decision-making and the lived experiences of a single ordinary Russian man from Xinjiang, China.
My wide-ranging interests and approaches to history reflect that I am truly passionate about history and am always seeking to learn and say something new.
One thing does usually carry over from project to project: “thick” archival work. This usually means multi-archival explorations. I’ve researched in two dozen Chinese archives and dozens more elsewhere. I find “international history” and drawing on sources from multiple repositories and countries to be an exciting and promising methodological approach.
I wrote a dissertation on state-led population resettlement from cities to frontier areas during China’s high-socialist period (defended March 2017) and plan to turn this into a book manuscript. For my second major project, I am torn between a study on food and beverage in socialist/reform China, one on the rise of inter-Asian connectivity after World War II, and another on the Sino-Korean border region. But more than likely it will be something completely different…