China Studies Reading Group

Organized by Tansen Sen, Director of the Center for Global Asia
Mengdie Zhao, Assistant Professor Faculty Fellow of Global China Studies
地点: S219, NYU Shanghai New Bund Campus
CGA Coordinator: Sharon Zhang,

Fall 2023

Islamic Shangri-La: Inter-Asian Relations and Lhasa’s Muslim Communities, 1600-1960

Islamic Shangri-La transports readers to the heart of the Himalayas as it traces the rise of the Tibetan Muslim community from the 17th century to the present. Radically altering popular interpretations that have portrayed Tibet as isolated and monolithically Buddhist. David Atwill’s vibrant account demonstrates how truly cosmopolitan Tibetan society was by highlighting the hybrid influences and internal diversity of Tibet. In this exploration of Tibetan Muslim experience, this book presents an unparalleled perspective of Tibet’s standing during the rise of post-World War II Asia.

Reviews by Morris Rossabi Jacqueline Armijo.

Date & Time: September 22nd, Friday 12:00pm – 13:00pm

A Certain Justice: Toward an Ecology of the Chinese Legal Imaginations 

In this highly original contribution to the interdisciplinary field of law and humanities, Haiyan Lee contends that this image arises from a skewed understanding of China’s political-legal culture, particularly the failure to distinguish what she calls high justice and low justice. In the Chinese legal imagination, Lee shows, justice is a vertical concept, with low justice between individuals firmly subordinated to the high justice of the state. China’s political-legal culture is marked by a mistrust of law’s powers, and as a result, it privileges substantive over procedural justice. Calling on a wide array of narratives — stories of crime and punishment, subterfuge and expose, guilt and redemption — A Certain Justice helps us recognize the fight for justice outside the familiar arenas of liberal democracy and the rule of law. 

Date & Time: October 20th, Friday 12:00pm – 13:00pm


《革命的身体》 is the first English-language primary source-based history of concert dance in the People’s republic of China. Combining over a decade of ethnographic and archival research, Emily Wilcox analyzes major dance works by Chinese choreographers staged over an eight-year period from 1935 to 2015. Using previously unexamined film footage, photographic documentation, performance programs, and other historical and contemporary sources, Wilcox challenges the commonly accepted view that Soviet-inspired revolutionary ballets are the primary legacy of the socialist era in China’s dance field. The digital edition of this title includes nineteen embedded videos of selected dance works discussed by the author. 

Reviews by Xing Fan 和 Fangfei Miao.

Date & Time: November 17th, Friday 12:00pm – 13:00pm

Carbon Technocracy: Energy Regimes in Modern East Asia

In Carbon Technocracy, Victor Seow uses the remarkable story of the Fushun colliery to chart how the fossil fuel economy emerged in tandem with the rise of the modern technocratic state. Taking coal as an essential feedstock of national wealth and power, Chinese and Japanese bureaucrats, engineers, and industrialists deployed new technologies like open-pit mining and hydraulic stowage in pursuit of intensive energy extraction. But as much as these mine operators idealized the might of fossil fuel–driven machines, their extractive efforts nevertheless relied heavily on the human labor that those devices were expected to displace. Under the carbon energy regime, countless workers here and elsewhere would be subjected to invasive techniques of labor control, ever-escalating output targets, and the dangers of an increasingly exploited earth.

Reviews by Shellen Xiao WuGrace Yen Shen.

Date & Time: December 15th, Friday 12:00pm – 13:00pm

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