I am Associate Professor of Japanese at the University of Rochester. My writing and scholarship has been recognized by the Fulbright Program, the Japan Foundation, the Association for Asian Studies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and, most recently, with a Pushcart Prize nomination. My first monograph, Playing in the Shadows: Fictions of Race and Blackness in Postwar Japanese Literature, was published in 2020 by the University of Michigan Press. I am currently working on two manuscripts. The first is The Futurist Turn: The Japanese Humanities and the Re-imagining of the Unwelfare State. The second is The Black Pacific: A Poetic History. I have been invited by the Association for Asian Studies to co-edit a volume tentatively titled Rethinking the Asianist: Asian Studies after Black Lives Matter. I am also serving as the founding editor of an academic journal, the Journal of Cultural Possibilities.I can say, with almost no hyperbole, that Princeton is where I learned to read, write, and think. Crucial to this training was the cultural equivalent of a transdisciplinary open door policy fostered by Princeton and EAS. Make the most of this openness--think capaciously, play with new ideas, and take the program up on its offer to explore other intellectual realms and bring your discoveries back to your intellectual home. And don't hesitate to cold e-mail your senpai when your intellectual interests overlap--they are waiting to hear from you!
I obtained my Ph.D. from Princeton in the middle of a pandemic. 2020 was a challenging but also fruitful year for me. Besides obtaining my Ph.D., I attended a 17-week-long intensive coding bootcamp at Fullstack Academy and successfully changed my career from academics to software engineering. After three months of job searching in a market recovering from the pandemic, I am now a full-time software developer at Deque Systems, a leading digital accessibility company focused on increasing web accessibility for users with disabilities.
I arrived at Princeton in 2013 after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Chinese language and literature at East China Normal University and a master’s degree in Comparative Literature at Beijing Normal University. With a preliminary research proposal to illuminate Chinese classical poetry with western oral theories, I reached out to Professor Martin Kern, who warmly encouraged me to apply to Princeton’s Ph.D. program, and later as my advisor generously guided me throughout my Ph.D. training. At Princeton, I learned how to let Chinese classical literature and western literary theories enrich each other by acknowledging and grappling with the gap between them. My dissertation “Writing History Through the Biographical Genre in the Han Dynasty (202 BCE – 220 CE)” critically applied genre criticism and narratology to explain the rise of the biographical genre in the historical writings of early imperial China. By engaging the difficulties and debates in the studies of biography from other premodern civilizations, I made an original contribution not just to Chinese studies but to the global study of historical writing altogether.
When I was close to my Ph.D. graduation in the spring of 2020, I decided to switch my career to software engineering. I had hoped to pursue an academic career until I had a realistic taste of the academic market, with very few available positions. Moreover, my plan to start a family with my partner made it more difficult to pursue a career that often requires moving from one place to another to become a tenured professor. While I was exploring non-academic career options, a Princeton Ph.D. graduate with a similar background shared with me her success story in transitioning to software engineering after attending a coding bootcamp. Although I had zero experience in coding, her success story dispersed my fears of the unknown and gave me the courage to step into this new territory. My Ph.D. training may initially appear irrelevant to software engineering, but during my career transition, I realized that my skills in critical thinking, textual analysis, and communication (teaching, public speaking, and writing), as well as my accomplishment in completing a long-term creative project (my dissertation) are highly valued in the technology industry. More specifically, my Ph.D. degree itself also led to a significant increase in my starting salary.
Coming to Princeton was my first time leaving my home country. As the first person in my family to study abroad, I always feel grateful that my 101 courses on the US took place at Princeton. The Princeton community provided me not only abundant resources and tremendous support but also a safe space for a “fresh-off-the-boat” international student like me to learn the language, culture, and politics of this country without being afraid to make mistakes. Even after I decided to leave academia, my Ph.D. training has provided significant advantages for my new career and my Princeton community continues to be an invaluable source of support.
In the fall of 2006, I arrived at Princeton as a graduate student in East Asian Studies. I had just finished six years of training in classical Chinese with a B.A. and an M.A. as well as six months studying abroad in Beijing. My intention was to complete a Ph.D. in the same subject and pursue my love of classical Chinese as an academic.
Along the way though, I developed a fascination with the liminal spaces inherent to literal and figural language, as well as the nomadic intertextuality of double entendre from medieval Chinese to classical Japanese. I shifted the focus of my research to classical Japanese and found myself in Japan during the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami, and the subsequent nuclear fallout. Some number of weeks later, my advisor, Richard Okada, lost his battle with cancer.
To cope with the incomprehensible loss of that year, I turned my love of philology and close reading to computer languages and software engineering, for me a natural extension from textual scholarship. I discovered computer languages required the same skill set Princeton’s inspiring faculty had instilled within me: critical thinking, unbounded curiosity, nuanced analysis, methodical rigor, and thoughtful humility.
With the gracious support of the faculty of East Asian Studies and my advisor Tom Hare, I finished my dissertation, A Genealogy of an Erotic Figure: Rereading the "Chinese Influence" of Heian Literature, and completed my Ph.D. in 2013. In a bleak job market, I discovered at once an upsetting dearth of academic positions juxtaposed with a promising abundance of opportunities in tech. I chose to leave academia.
Approaching a decade since, I have helped build a new branch office in Tokyo for Pivotal, writing software with clients alternately communicating in Japanese and Chinese. At Google, I have contributed to a growing computer language Go, “the language of the cloud” that powers countless internet services. At Stedi, I have helped grow the company from four to fifty people, building a global network for business-to-business trade with cutting edge serverless technology.
In spite of the non-linear paths of my career, I immensely value my time at Princeton. With the distressing changes in higher education, it is easy to worry about how applicable one’s training is in non-academic contexts. Certainly, the areas of my academic training do not strictly overlap with my current work as a software engineer. However, the graduate education I received at Princeton is of immeasurable worth, both personally and professionally, given the universal value of critical thinking and analysis, strong written and spoken communication, and meticulous research with informed historical context. For this, I remain indebted to the East Studies Department and to Princeton as a whole.
I received my PhD from the East Asian Studies Department at Princeton University in 2018. Currently I work as an Assistant Professor in the School of Design at Southern University of Science and Technology. The position is in Media Art and Technology, where I am encouraged to continue doing both my documentary film work and academic research side by side. I teach an intensive film workshop as well. I am excited for this new adventure to begin. By continuing to teach and make films at the same time, I hope to be part of the rise of a new generation of Chinese scholars who conduct innovative research on media, technology, and society in contemporary China. Committed to the ideas of media-based research and research-based media, I consider it my long-term goal to showcase this new line of research in media formats, and as a filmmaker to document China in changing times.
My experience at Princeton has given me the necessary academic skills to pursue this dual career in academia and film. I hope my unconventional career choice will inspire the current and incoming EAS students to take risks to create their own career path.
I received my PhD from Princeton in 2018, and I am currently an Assistant Professor of premodern Japanese literature at the University of Arizona. Before joining the faculty at the University of Arizona in 2020, I taught at Texas State University as an assistant professor and spent one year as a postdoctoral fellow at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University in 2019 – 20. Like many recent graduate students, my path to Princeton was far from conventional. After high school in Japan, I worked in TV broadcasting for several years before finally coming to the United States to start my higher education at LaGuardia Community College in NY as a first - generation international student. After proudly earning a degree focusing on film, theatre and mass media studies, I transferred to Smith College, where I received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Languages and Cultures. Then I entered Princeton to study premodern Japanese literature focusing on classical tales ( monogatari ), including The Tale of Genji and war tales such as The Tale of Hōgen and The Tale of the Heike . I was very fortunate to have supportive and intellectually inspiring advisors and mentors. My research interests include premodern Japanese history and religious studies, area studie s, and modern film and mass media. My current book project, “Mediating Spirits: Narratives of Vengeful Spirits and Genealogies in Premodern Japanese Literature,” explores the invocation of the angry dead both as a social practice of genealogical imagination repeatedly thematized within premodern Japanese literary texts and as an act whose structure generated a narrative voice integral to the development of classical Japanese narratives. My graduate experience at Princeton helped me not only to grow as a scholar but to strengthen my perseverance and compassion as a teacher. After my first advisor’s passing, I managed to find academic success by exploring broader opportunities and disciplines, often beyond the department. Princeton offers so many rich opportunities and programs. For example, through the Exchange Scholar Program, I was able to take courses with a University of Chicago faculty member who eventually served on my dissertation committee. The Center for the Study of Religion and the Writing Center’s dissertation writing bootcamps were highlights of my graduate days. In these interdisciplinary environments I met many colleagues from different fields, and we all benefited from sharing writing ideas and drafts. The McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning prepared me to begin forming the pedagogy that I can still use in my current classrooms, whether for big lecture classes with over one hundred students or for graduate seminars with less than ten students. One of the most precious treasures from the graduate program was the camaraderie and friendship I developed with fellow graduate students, who are all now my cherished colleagues. Taking advantage of various teaching and community engagement opportunities always gave me inspiration and motivation to continue with my degree. I was fortunate to have opportunities to precept and do language tutoring, as well as community service, all of which were great outlets. In my final year at Princeton, I received the JAA - Honjo Fellowship offered by the Japanese American Association of New York, where I met incredible people beyond academia who are dedicated to supporting education and community service. Having a chance to work with them continually renewed my passion for why I wanted to be a teacher to give back to society.
I arrived at Princeton in 2011 without a clear research topic, knowing only that I was interested in Tang poetry. I left six years later with a PhD, a tenure-track job, a database, three more languages, and a spouse. I currently teach premodern Chinese literature and religion, as well as translation studies, in the Department of East Asian Languages & Cultural Studies at UC Santa Barbara, where I am an assistant professor.
The PhD program at Princeton's EAS Department allowed for both depth and breadth of research. The Department's core faculty grounded me in philology. In seminars, we could spend an entire week on a single line of poetry, reading through reams of commentary to understand the precise meaning of the line in its fullest context. All of my teachers in the EAS Department and Program had high standards for the details of specialized research.
EAS always felt like home, a strong community fostered by its stellar lecture series and weekly department colloquium. But it was my experiences beyond the department that expanded my mind the most. In my third year, I was fortunate to receive a generous fellowship from the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities to pursue studies of Sanskrit and incantation, which also opened my eyes to IHUM's uniquely experimental and embodied approach to scholarship. Then, after a year at Fudan University supported by a Fulbright grant, I returned to connect with the Center for Digital Humanities. The CDH soon became a second home, where I learned how to formally pitch and manage a collaborative project (in addition to skills like network analysis and data modeling). If I were to give one piece of advice to EAS grad students, it would be to spend at least one third of your time outside EAS and remain open to new ideas that may come from other fields. These interdisciplinary experiences became crucial components of my dissertation, "The Invention of Chinese Buddhist Poetry: Poet-Monks of Late Medieval China," which I'm now turning into a book. The digital training also prepared me to edit and contribute to the first scholarly volume on DH and Chinese literature, Digital Methods and Traditional Chinese Literary Studies (a special issue of the Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture).
The depth and breadth of Princeton's graduate training has become a crucial component of my scholarly identity. Much of my published work uses close analysis of textual details to push traditional boundaries in the study of medieval Chinese literature. Similarly, my teaching covers, on the one hand, classical Chinese language and manuscript studies, and, on the other, translations, creative adaptations, and other forms of boundary crossing. Little of this would have been conceivable to me without the training and support of Princeton's EAS community.
I work in the Hong Kong office of Perrett Laver, a UK-based consulting and executive search firm specializing in supporting universities and other mission-driven organizations.
Early in my graduate studies at Princeton I was impressed by research examining the range of religious practices and ideas coexisting and interacting under the Song state (907-1279). Curious about religious life under the Liao and Jin states, the Song’s contemporaries to the north, I set out to provide an analysis in my dissertation research. As Japan is the leading center of scholarship in this area, I studied Japanese intensively and spent time as a visiting scholar at Kyoto University, participating in workshops, conferences, and seminars relevant to my research.
After completing my doctorate I took a position as Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies at Underwood International College (UIC), a highly selective liberal arts program at Yonsei University, a leading university in South Korea. For a scholar of East Asian history, this role provided access to relevant conferences and sources as well as motivated, diligent students to whom premodern Chinese history was interesting and relevant. Faculty assessments at Yonsei occur every three years, with journal articles in print being the chief evaluation measure. In this context, my research focused on article-length projects investigating the northeastern frontier zone where Tang, Liao, and Jin administration shaded into other ways of life and forms of identity. Over time my research interests branched out in new directions, exploring late imperial travelers’ accounts of Confucian sacred sites and the central importance of weather control rites in Chinese local religion. The experience of co-teaching a course on early modern economic history with UIC colleagues and Prof. Kenneth Pomeranz of the University of Chicago inspired me to develop further modules examining the emergence of modern business organizations and practices in China and Japan. With growing familiarity with the finances, operations, organizations, and social role of businesses, it became increasingly possible to envision working outside the university context.
Soon after my promotion to Associate Professor I became Chair of the Common Curriculum, the unit containing UIC’s humanities and social sciences faculty; it comprised 31 full-time and 26 contingent faculty, offering an average of 112 courses per semester to over 2500 students. The duties of Chair required far more engagement with other units in the university, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the structures and mechanisms by which universities in general retain their scale, sustainability, and social relevance. With this broader perspective the idea of contributing to higher education at the organizational level beyond a single program, field, or institution became strongly compelling. In the summer of 2019 I joined Perret Laver and have since supported a range of prominent and rising universities in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and Southeast Asia in appointments of crucial roles, from Vice Chancellors and Presidents to senior faculty in key fields. This work has been a rewarding way to draw on my institutional leadership experience within academia, as well as understanding gained from research and teaching in the humanities and social sciences, to have a tangible positive impact.
I came to Princeton in 2011 after studying philosophy in Spain and Taiwan. After defending my PhD dissertation in 2017, I moved on to a one-year postdoctoral research position at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany. In 2018 I obtained an Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellowship for diversifying the curriculum and began my current position as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, where I teach Chinese, Asian, and Global Philosophies.
Living and studying in Princeton was a gift in many different senses. I treasured my graduate courses as luxury opportunities to deepen my understanding of Classical Chinese philosophy, literature, and intellectual history, and privileged windows into new areas and methodologies such as material culture and manuscript studies. I studied under teachers who revolutionized my way of seeing early China (and other early cultures) and provided me with the tools and knowledge that have marked my understanding of the field. Then, there is the community: the friendships, mentors, and colleagues that you will keep for years to come. Seeing Princeton mentors and classmates always feels like going back home for Christmas.
There is something unique that happens at Princeton which I have yet to see in any other place I have ever visited (and I have been to a few places): if you have a good idea, you will get the funding and support needed to make it happen. This is my main piece of advice for current and future graduate students at EAS: take advantage of the resources beyond your classes and the library. Travel for research and conferences, learn languages, create reading groups, and organize lots of academic events. The networking and connections that I established through my organization of conferences and workshops, as well as by giving lectures nationally and internationally, immensely helped me in the job market and continues to be key to my career development.
Research wise, I have moved from philosophy to sinology and back to philosophy. I feel fortunate for the opportunity to teach Chinese philosophy to smart young people who would otherwise never encounter the Zhuangzi, and to contribute to the early 21st century movement for the diversification of philosophy and the decolonization of curricula in Anglo-European academia. My first book manuscript, based on my PhD dissertation, is called Adapting. A Chinese Philosophy of Action, to appear with Oxford University Press in the spring 2021. I work at the intersection of metaphysics, ethics, and sociopolitical philosophy, focusing on questions of agency and autonomy within a relational ontology. I integrate the methods, knowledge, and best practices of sinology into my philosophy research. Also, apart from my work in philosophy, I continue to nurture my sinological side via collaborations and publications.
I completed my Ph.D. in 2011, and in 2012 I joined the faculty at Bowdoin College, first as an assistant professor and then, gaining tenure, as an associate professor. In 2020 I moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I cover middle-period Chinese history. My research interests involve cultural and intellectual history, epistemology, and the history of emotions.
I arrived in Princeton in 2004, just a few months after receiving my bachelor’s degree from Beijing University. Jones Hall soon became the place where my eager young mind soaked up all kinds of important knowledge about the academy, American higher education, and the discipline of historical studies. On one of my first days on campus I watched a squirrel drag a whole slice of pizza across a pathway, moving steadily and confident in its task. This image stuck in my mind and became for me an allegory of the graduate journey: think boldly, work hard, and take time to laugh.
One main lesson I took away from my Princeton days is that an aspiring academic should actively work on formulating her scholarly self. Each of us endeavors to acquire the necessary language skills, analytical acumen, and range of empirical knowledge; yet we each embody and employ these capacities differently. In other words, we each take an idiosyncratic approach to scholarship and arrive at a unique understanding of our vocation. Indeed, exploring who we are as scholars is a lifetime mission as we pursue the questions that deeply interest us. I am grateful for how the nurturing and collegial environment in East Asian Studies at Princeton provided invaluable support in my search for self-coherence. Numerous conversations I had with mentors and friends live on in memory and continue to inspire me in my research, my writing, and my reach for creativity.
I came to Princeton in 2006, “fresh off the boat,” a doctoral candidate from China, equipped with a passion for Northern Song poetry and little understanding of the norms and quirks that define elite academia in North American. In March 2012, I defended my dissertation with the Teutonic title “Dialectics of Spontaneity,” a curious development thanks, no doubt, to the benevolent influence of my advisor Martin Kern. Since then I have been teaching at Goethe University Frankfurt and was tenured in 2015, the year my first book was published by an august Dutch press. Thus, in unanticipated ways, my life has become a story unfolding across three continents. In an even stranger twist of academic fate, I am now working on modern Chinese classicist poetry. Given the sometimes seemingly insurmountable paradigmatic gap separating research on premodern and modern China, I find myself truly between worlds.
Princeton has always encouraged the values of critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, and audacity. I had the fortune of studying with Anna Shields, Andrew Plaks, Ping Wang, Stephen Teiser, Benjamin Elman, Willard Peterson, Susan Naquin, Daniel Heller-Rozen, Thomas Hare, and Jerome Silbergeld. Their broad range of expertise, deep insight, and humility have inspired me to become comfortable with the unknown, excited by adventures in alien waters, and confident despite my failures and limits. My incredibly talented cohorts have supported and nurtured my growth in many ways. I particularly miss the times when, after long solitary hours spent writing in my Gest Library carrel, I would go downstairs and unfailingly find an EAS graduate student lunch table, where we exchanged tips, jokes, laughter, and exciting new ideas. A few decades later from now, I might even have the honor of claiming some of them as my lifelong friends. I am not a social person, but it is the fond memory of the Frist lunch table that continues to inspire me to seek out intellectual communities where I feel at home and to which I can contribute.
I am conscious of the fact that, among my fellow graduate students, I am the only one to have settled in Continental Europe. Most have found work in North America and East Asia. Their contributions have been important, and their accomplishments dazzling. But, if I may, I would like to end with a personal appeal to current and future graduates: look to the broader world. Global academia is healthier when you contribute to its linguistic and cultural diversity, and Princeton Tigers shall be pioneers in making dynamic connections.