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Li Chen's Book Won the AAS's 2018 Joseph Levenson Prize in China Studies.


Professor Li Chen, ISCLH founding president and current director, was awarded the prestigious Joseph Levenson Pre-1900 Book Prize for 2018 by the Association for Asian Studies for his book. The prize is “awarded to the English-language books that make the greatest contribution to increasing understanding of the history, culture, society, politics, or economy of China. Works in all disciplines and in all periods of Chinese history are eligible.”


His book also won Honorable Mention for the American Society for Legal History’s 2017 Peter Gonville Stein Book Award, presented for the best book in legal history written in English that focuses on all non-US regions, as well as global and international history.


Here is more information about the book.


Li Chen,"Chinese Law in Imperial Eyes: Sovereignty, Justice, and Transcultural Politics" (Columbia University Press, 2016)


Abstract: How were Chinese law and society imagined by American schoolchildren, French philosophers, Russian Sinologists, German missionaries, Dutch merchants, and British lawyers? What happened when agents of presumably dominant Western empires had to endure the humiliations and anxieties in maintaining the profitable but precarious relationship with China for more than two centuries? In Chinese Law in Imperial Eyes, Li Chen provides an interdisciplinary analysis of these related issues to explore the intersection of law, culture, and politics in the context of Sino-Western encounters approximately from the 1740s through the 1840s. Utilizing a wide array of sources, Li Chen investigates the archival, popular, intellectual, and official aspects of Sino-Western relations during the formative century prior to 1843. He highlights the centrality of law to a number of significant events in Sino-Western encounters, and offers new perspectives on the origins of comparative Chinese law in the West, the First Opium War in 1839-42, and foreign extraterritoriality in China. This book also traces the dynamic forces and processes by which some of the most influential ideas of Sino-Western cultural and racial boundaries were created, contested, and normalized in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Critical reexamination of Sino-Western legal disputes, cultural borrowings, and negotiation over imperial interests and sovereignty during this period suggests that the history of early modern Sino-Western encounters was much more complicated and multifaceted than either the popular theory of the inevitable clash of civilizations or the earlier conception of Orientalism as a coherent and totalizing discourse of Western hegemony has led us to assume. The shifting balance of economic-political power profoundly shaped the formation and transformation of knowledge of Chinese law and society in different contact zones in places like China, India, and Euroamerican metropolises. Recovering the transformative, variegated, and sometimes contradictory roles of Chinese law in European “modernization” in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries also helps “provincialize” the subsequent Euroamericentric narratives of global modernity. In this empirically grounded, multidimensional study, Chen draws attention to the many under-analyzed moments and sites at which imperial ideology, national sovereignty, cultural tradition, or international order were structured or redefined. It speaks to ongoing debates on the history of sentimental imperialism, liberalism, humanism, international law, and identity politics. More information about how to purchase the book is available at Columbia University Press, and the book is also available at Amazon

Li Chen is currently Associate Professor of history at the University of Toronto, founding president of the International Society for Chinese law and History, and member of the editorial board of Law and History Review. Besides a number of publications, he is also a co-editor (with Madeleine Zelin) of Chinese Law: Knowledge, Practice and Transformation, 1530s-1950s (Brill, 2015), available here.


More information about the author and his research interests and publications is available here


Table of contents: Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Imperial Archives and Historiography of Western Extraterritoriality in China 2. Translation of the Qing Code and Colonial Origins of Comparative Chinese Law 3. Chinese Law in the Formation of European Modernity 4. Sentimental Imperialism and the Global Spectacle of Chinese Punishments 5. Law and Empire in the Making of the First Opium War Conclusion List of Abbreviations Notes Glossary Bibliography Index



Keywords: Chinese law, legal history, legal orientalism, law and empire, comparative legal studies, colonialism, extraterritoriality, Sir George Thomas Staunton, translation, Qing Code, Chinese penal code, transcultural politics, contact zone, imperialism, legality of empire, legal formation of empire, imperial formation of law, origins of extraterritoriality, extraterritoriality in China, unequal treaties, the Opium War, Sino-Western relations, sentimentalism, sentimental imperialism, sympathy, punishment, spectacle of cruelty, moral geography, the MaCartney embassy, Sino-British relations, translation of the Qing Code, Ta Tsing Leu Lee, the Great Qing Code, Sir William Jones, Sir Mackintosh, Sir Thomas Babington Macaulay, Lin Zexu, Commissioner Lin, John King Fairbank, the Lady Hughes case of 1784, the Neptune Case of 1807, the Emily Case of 1821, the Canton System, the Opium Debate, British debate on legal codification, the Indian Penal Code, the Indian legal reform, codification, codiphobia, legal modernity, legal reform, colonial archives, primary source and primary discourse, pain of others, injury discourse, discourse of injury, international law, law of nations, Henry Wheaton, Hugo Grotius, Franciscus de Victoria, politics of international law, legal imperialism, Staunton and translation, intercultural encounters, translingual practice, French translation of Chinese law, Punishments of China, visual images of Chinese punishments, “Chinese cruelty,” Orientalism, Edward Said, Qing law, Chinese legal tradition, Chinese legal modernity

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