Prof. Li Chen
Associate Professor of History, Department of Historical and Cultural Studies and Graduate Department of History

Li Chen received his J.D. from University of Illinois (magna cum laude) and Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. He is an Associate Professor of Chinese History at the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies and the Graduate Department of History. Professor Chen holds a non-budgetary cross-appointment at the Faculty of Law at the rank of Associate Professor. He also holds non-budgetary appointments at the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies, the Munk School of Global Affairs, and the Department of East Asian Studies.

Professor Chen’s research and teaching interests include late Imperial and modern China (15th through 20th centuries), Chinese law and society, Sino-Western relations, law and empire, history of science and biopower in jurisprudence, politics of translation, cultural encounters, international law, global history, and postcolonial studies. His book, Chinese Law in Imperial Eyes: Sovereignty, Justice, and Transcultural Politics (Columbia University Press, 2016), won the 2018 Joseph Levenson Pre-1900 Book Prize of the Association for Asian Studies and Honorable Mention for the 2017 Peter Gonville Stein Book Award of the American Society for Legal History. Professor Chen is co-editor of Chinese Law: Knowledge, Practice, and Transformation, 1530s-1950s (Brill, 2015) (with Madeleine Zelin). He is working on another SSHRC-funded book project, Invisible Power, Legal Specialists, and the Juridical Field in Late Imperial China, 1651-1911. Professor Chen is a member of the editorial board of the Law and History Review (2013-20), and founding President (2014-2017) and director of the International Society for Chinese Law and History. He also served as Associate Chair (2015-2016) and Chair of the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies (2016-2019).

For more information on Professor Chen’s research, see his page:

Selected publications

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

Co-editor, Chinese Law: Knowledge, Practice and Transformation, 1530s-1950s (with Madeleine Zelin, Brill, 2015)

“Affective Sovereignty, International Law, and China’s Legal Status in the Nineteenth Century,” in Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, Stefanos Geroulanos and Nichole Jerr, eds, The Scaffold of Sovereignty: Global and Aesthetic Perspectives on the History of a Concept (Columbia University Press, 2017)

“Law, Empire, and Historiography of Modern Sino-Western Relations: A Case Study of the Lady Hughes Controversy in 1784,” Law & History Review 27.1 (2009): 1-53 (received  honorable mention for the Law and Society Association’s 2011 Article Prize, and translated into Chinese as “法律、帝国与近代中西关系历史学,” 北大法律评论 (Peking University Law Review) 12.2 (Sept. 2011): 437-81)

“Universalism and Equal Sovereignty as Contested Myths of International Law in the Sino-Western Encounter,” Journal of the History of International Law13.1 (2011):75-116 (translated into Chinese by 法律史译评 (Legal History StudiesTranslation and Critiques)

Research areas
Critical Legal Theory
International Law
Legal History