Li Chen

Associate Professor of History, Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, Graduate Department of History, Center for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies, and Collaborative Master's Specialization in Contemporary East and Southeast Asian Studies, Asian Institute


(416) 287-7128




Li Chen received his J.D. from University of Illinois (magna cum laude) and Ph.D. from Columbia University. He is currently Associate Professor of History, Global Asia Studies, and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto. His 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. He has been invited to present his research at various institutions including Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Duke, Wisconsin, Chicago, and the College de France, Helsinki, Seoul National University, Renmin, and Tsinghua University.

His book, Chinese Law in Imperial Eyes: Sovereignty, Justice, and Transcultural Politics (Columbia, 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. Besides a series of articles and book chapters, his recent publications also include a co-edited volume, Chinese Law: Knowledge, Practice, and Transformation, 1530s-1950s (Brill, 2015). He has been working on another SSHRC-funded book project, Invisible Power, Legal Specialists, and the Juridical Field in Late Imperial China, 1651-1911. He is a member of 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.

research interests

Late Imperial and Modern China (1500s-1900s)
Chinese Law and Society
Sino-Western Relations
Power/Knowledge and Modern Governmentality
Politics of Translation
Cultural Encounters and Orientalism
Critical Studies of International Law, and Postcolonial Studies.


Ph D Columbia University (2009)
M.Ph., Columbia University (2005)
M.A. Columbia University, (2005)
J.D. University of Illinois, (2002)
M.A. State University of New York at Buffalo, (1999)
B.A., Beijing Foreign Studies University,  (1996)


Modern Chinese History
Culture, Politics, and Society in Late Imperial China
China and the World
Law and Society in Chinese History
Introduction to Global Asia
Independent Studies: Senior Research Project in History
Critical Historiography of Late Imperial and Modern China
China in Global History


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