Postdoctoral Research Associate in Archaeology (2008-2010)


I am an archaeologist and historian of Early China focusing on the Shang (ca. 1600-1050 B.C.) period. I have lived in Taiwan and China for about half my adult life (originally to study martial arts). Since 1996 I have pursued training in ancient Chinese epigraphy, linguistics, history and archaeology in Taiwan, Canada, US and Mainland China. I graduated from Harvard with a dual Ph.D. in archaeology and Chinese history in 2007. The last three years of my degree were spent in China where I participated in a variety different archaeological projects ranging from cave site excavations to settlement survey and from CRM work to Chinese field school. My main focus, however, was and continues to be Anyang: a world heritage site and the final capital of the Shang dynasty. I am currently collaborating with Yuan Jing of the Institute of Archaeology and He Yulin of the Anyang workstation on a zooarchaeological analysis of a bone workshop excavated in 2006. I spent 2007-2008 as a post-doc at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, NYU. My wife Chia-lin and I have been married since 1992 and we have two (not so) small boys, Rui and Kai.

Research Interests

I am interested in a broad array of topics but my focus is currently on the intersection of political theory, social violence and history. The ancient past has often been isolated from larger debates by disciplinary boundaries, yet just as the archaeology of early complex polities or ancient warfare and sacrifice would benefit from more consideration of contemporary political theory or modern anthropologies of violence, so too would the latter benefit from the addition of a long term perspective. Could there be a bridging body of political theory that takes into account both ancient and modern realities? What would it look like? If violence, long lurking in the shadows of classical political theory such as that of Hobbes or Weber, is brought back into the equation as an analytical element, what sorts of anthropologies of deep time could result? What have the different uses, logics, and moral worlds of social violence been and what are their relationships to socio-political forms over time? If Elias’ “civilizing process” turns out to be not so “civilized”, what are the alternatives?

Accordingly, over the past year, I ran a faculty research group and workshop on “Violence and Civilization” generously supported by both the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World and the Cogut Center for the Humanities. I also taught a graduate/undergraduate seminar in the spring entitled “Violence and Civilization: an exploration of social violence through time”.

In terms of time and place, I am especially interested in the (pre)history of China. My dissertation (and much of my training) focused on the Late Shang dynasty (ca. 1250-1050 BCE), and I now would like to broaden my scope to investigate the socio-political development of mainland East Asia from the Longshan period (ca. 3000-1900 BCE) through to the first empires (221 BCE-220 CE). In part this will serve as a spatial-temporal locus for my interests in political process and social violence over time, in part it will be an experiment in maro-historical/archaeological synthesis. On this subject, I taught a graduate seminar entitled “Genealogies of Complexity in East Asia” in the fall of 2008. Together with students we explored archaeological political theory and its applications to ancient East Asian societies during these critical three millennia.

Specifically related to Late Shang Anyang, I am interested in the understudied networks of resources that must have supplied the massive urban site. Accordingly, my current research project, based on analysis of an enormous quantity of cattle bone from a recently excavated bone workshop, will combine topics such as the Shang cattle economy, workshop production, legitimating ancestral ritual and hierarchy-enacting feasting.

In terms of publications, I am currently working on two manuscripts derived from my dissertation, the first being an English-language synthesis of recent archaeological work on 2nd millennium BCE China. The second is a study of the constituting role of kinship and social violence in Late Shang polity and society. A third project is an edited volume on Violence and Civilization based on a symposium organized for the 2007 SAAs and the workshop I will be organizing for the Joukowsky Institute. Recent articles include a report on the Chinese government-sponsored Origins of Chinese Civilization Project co-authored with Yuan Jing to appear in Antiquity and an essay on archaeological political theory under review for Current Anthropology. Other articles in the works include a contribution for an edited volume on Near Eastern sacrifice and another edited volume on ancestors.


Ph.D. (Harvard University 2007) – Anthropology & East Asian Languages and Civilizations (Archaeology and Chinese History)

M.A. (University of British Columbia 2001) – Asian Studies (Chinese Paleography and Linguistics)

B.A. (University of Victoria 1996) – Chinese and English Literature


2008 – present: Brown University, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Archaeology, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World

2007-2008: New York University, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World

Spring 2007: Peking University, Instructor, World History Program

Grants, Awards, Honors and Fellowships

Spring 2009: “Violence and Civilization Research Group”, Cogut Humanities Center Research Group Grant, Brown University.

2008-2009: Consumption and Production: A Preliminary Zooarchaeological Analysis of the Late Shang (ca. 1250-1050 BC) Tiesanlu Bone Workshop at Anyang. Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Grants to Individuals in East and Southeast Asian Archaeology and Early History Postdoctoral Fellowships.

2008-2009: Mellon Post-doctoral Fellowship, Humanities Council, Cornell University (declined)

2006-2007: Doctoral Dissertation Completion Fellowship. Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University.

2005-2006: Harvard-Yenching Fellowship, Harvard Yenching Institute.

2004-2005: Harvard-Yenching Fellowship, Harvard Yenching Institute.

2003: Nien Tz’u Bennett Travel Fund, Fairbanks Center, Harvard.

2001-2005: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship. 

1998-2000: Full University Graduate Fellowship, University of British Columbia.

1996:  Jubilee Medal (highest graduating average in the Arts Faculty), University of Victoria.

1995: President’s Scholarship, University of Victoria