Reflections from 一 to 龠


Thomas S. Mullaney is Associate Professor of Chinese History at Stanford University. He is the author of Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China and principal editor of Critical Han Studies: The History, Representation and Identity of China’s Majority. He recently completed the manuscript for his second monograph, The Chinese Typewriter: A Global History. This work charts out China’s development of a modern, nonalphabetic information infrastructure in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This project is the recipient of the 2013 Usher Prize and a three-year National Science Foundation fellowship. At present, he is working on four new projects: a monograph on the history of Chinese computing, a monograph on the global history of linotype and its career in the non-Latin alphabetic world, a Digital Humanities project on the phenomenon of grave relocation in contemporary China, and a monograph on the history of minority identity formation in the People’s Republic of China. He is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Dissertation Reviews, which publishes 500 reviews annually of recently defended dissertations in 30 different fields in the Humanities and Social Sciences.


  • Ph.D., Columbia University, Department of History, 2006
  • M.A., Columbia University, Department of History, 2004
  • M.A., Johns Hopkins University, Humanities Center, 2000
  • B.A., Johns Hopkins University, East Asian Studies/ International Studies, 1999

Fellowships and Awards

  • Abbot Payson Usher Prize, awarded to author of the best scholarly work published during the preceding three years under the auspices of the Society for the History of Technology. [Awarded for the article entitled “The Moveable Typewriter: How Chinese Typists Developed Predictive Text during the Height of Maoism” appearing in Technology and Culture.]
  • National Science Foundation 3-Year Grant (Science, Technology and Society Award)
  • 2011 American Historical Association-Pacific Branch Award
  • Annenberg Faculty Fellow, 2010-12
  • William H. and Frances Green Faculty Fellow, Stanford University, 2010-11
  • Freeman Spogli Institute China Fund, 2010-11
  • Hellman Faculty Scholar, 2009
  • ACLS/Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation “New Perspectives on Chinese Culture and Society” Award, 2008
  • Stanford College Dean’s Office of Humanities and Sciences Award, 2008
  • Weatherhead Foundation Summer Fellowship, 2004
  • Social Science Research Council International Pre- Dissertation Fellowship, 2002-2003
  • Blakemore Foundation Fellowship for Advanced Asian Language Studies, 2002-2003
  • Japan Foundation Japanese Language Training Program for Postgraduate Students
  • Columbia University Weatherhead Foundation Fellowship, 2000-2006

Courses Taught

  • History of Modern China
  • Mao Zedong: The Man Who Would Become China
  • Race and Ethnicity in East Asia
  • The History of Information
  • Communism and Revolution in China
  • Chinese Science, Technology, and Medicine
  • Major Topics in Modern Chinese History: The Qing-Republican Transition
  • Major Topics in Modern Chinese History: The Communist Revolution
  • Research Seminar in Modern Chinese History

Conference and Invited Papers (selected list)


  • “Hot Metal Empire: Script, Media, and Colonialism in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East” (“World Scripts” Academy, University of Cape Town, September 2015)
  • “The Chinese Computer: A Cold War History” (American Historical Association Annual Meeting, Atlanta, January 2016)


  • “Unimagining Ethnicity in China: The Standardization of Minority Identity after the Ethnic Classification” (Hanyang University, Seoul, South Korea, April 30, 2015)
  • “Architects of Ethnicity: The Standardization of Chinese Minority Identities after the Ethnic Classification” (Johns Hopkins University, April 13, 2015)
  • “Waiting for Cadmus: Chinese Script in the Age of Alphanumeric Hegemony, 1871-Present” (Featured Lecture, Conference on Asian History, American Historical Association, January 2014)
  • “The Birth of Input in China” (University of California, Berkeley, October 30, 2013)
  • “How to Build a Chinese Typewriter: Reimagining Technology and Script in the 19th and 20th Centuries” (UCLA, May 6, 2013)
  • “How Does Script Want to be Read? Siegen Chou, Eugene Shen, and the Horizontalization of Chinese (“Language, Information, Techné” Workshop, Stanford University, March 12, 2013)
  • Invited Lecture at Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University (October 19, 2012)
  • Invited Lecture at “Knowledge/Value: Information, Databases, Archives Conference” (University of Chicago Center in Beijing, September 7, 2012)
  • “The Semi-Colonial Semi-Colon: The Discourse and Practice of Modern Punctuation in Twentieth-Century Language Reform” (Princeton University, April 21, 2012)
  • “Incompatible with Modernity: The Chinese Typewriter in the Western Imagination.” (American Historical Association Annual Meeting 2012)
  • “Splitting the Chinese Atom: Lin Yutang, the MingKwai Typewriter, and the Crisis of Information in 20th Century China.” (City University of Hong Kong, December 19, 2011)
  • “Chinese Telegraphy and Chinese Typewriting in Global Historical Perspective.” (Ohio State University, May 27, 2011)
  • “The People’s Republic of Predictive Text: How Chinese Typists in the Communist Period Anticipated the Computer Age.” (Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting 2011)
  • “Radical Machines: On Chinese Typewriters and the Twin Traditions of Chinese Linguistic Modernity.” (Harvard University, October 25, 2010)
  • “‘Ten Characters a Minute': The Discourse of the Chinese Typewriter and the Persistence of Orientalist Thought.” (Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting 2010)
  • “The Typing Rebellion: Toward a Global History of the Chinese Typewriter” (History of Science Society, 2009 Annual Meeting, Phoenix, AZ)
  • “The Chinese Typewriter: The Global History of a Curious Invention and Those Who Misunderstood It.” (Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication, August 20, 2009)
  • “Categorizing Yunnan: The 1954 Ethnic Classification Project (minzu shibie).” (Fudan University, Shanghai, China, July 28, 2009)
  • “Meditations on the Han Figurine: How to Conceptualize, Research and Teach the Largest Ethnic Group on Earth.” (University of Washington, March 5, 2009)
  • “Han, Non-Han, and Non: Notions of Majority, Minority, and Miscellany in the Study of Southwestern China.” (Stanford University, Critical Han Studies Conference and Workshop, April 25-27, 2008)
  • “Ethnic Diversity in Contemporary China: Surface and Depth.” (Johns Hopkins University, March 28, 2008)
  • “Between Han Chauvinism and Local Nationalism: Ethnic Iconography in China.” (Stanford University, Center for East Asian Studies, February 21, 2008)
  • “The Other Origin of Species: Ethnic Categorization and Ethnic Identity in Contemporary China.” (University of Oregon, October 22, 2007)
  • “Henry Rodolph Davies: The Link Between Colonial India and the People’s Republic of China.” (Crossing Borders and Paradigms: Anthropology of Southwest China Reconsidered, Dali, Yunnan Province, August 7-15, 2007) [Co-Sponsored by Centre for Ethnological & Anthropological Theories and Methods at The Central University for Nationalities (Beijing) and School of Southwestern Minority Studies at The Southwestern University for Nationalities (Chengdu)]
  • “Han, Solo: Understanding the Ethnonational Divide in Communist China.” (University of California Irvine, Rethinking Divides in the Study of China, April 28, 2007)
  • “Ten meditations on extinction.” (UCLA, Department of Information Studies, Design for Forgetting and Exclusion Workshop, April 13-15, 2007)
  • “‘I’m gonna make you love me’ Social engineering, disobedient science, and Chinese Communist state power.” (Stanford University, Center for East Asian Studies, November 27, 2006)
  • “Ariadne’s Clue of Thread: Towards a Forensic Model of Existence.” (UCLA, Department of Information Studies, November 16, 2006)
  • “Coming to Terms with the Nation: Toward a History of Ethnic Classification in Twentieth-Century China.” (Bard College, Bard in China Conference Series, April 14, 2005)
  • “Ethnic Classification in China and the Tensions Across Space, Time, and Metrics.” (Columbia University Center for the Study of Ethnicity & Race Speaker Series, December 1, 2004)
  • “Taming Diversity in Seven Easy Steps: How Researchers in 1954 Categorized the Minorities of Yunnan Province (China) in Less Than Six Months.” (Columbia University Department of History Graduate-Faculty Symposium, October 22, 2004)
  • “Ethnic Classification Writ Large: The 1954 Yunnan Province Ethnic Classification Project and its Foundations in Republican-Era Taxonomic Thought.” (The Johns Hopkins University Comparative and World History Seminar, November 11, 2003)
  • “From 400 to 55 in Under 50 Years: Towards a History of China’s Ethnic Identification Project (minzu shibie)” (Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting 2002)


  • Sigrid Schmalzer. The People’s Peking Man: Popular Science and Human Identity in Twentieth-Century China. (Journal of Asian Studies, Volume 69, Number 2, 2010)
  • Ian R. Bartky. One Time Fits All: The Campaigns for Global Uniformity. (Science Magazine, February 2008)
  • Benjamin A. Elman. On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900. (Eighteenth Century Studies, Volume 40, Number 3, Spring 2007)
  • Benjamin A. Elman. A Cultural History of Modern Science in China. (Science Magazine, January 2007)
  • Suisheng Zhao. A Nation-State by Construction: Dynamics of Modern Chinese Nationalism. (H-Nationalism, January 2007; reprinted H-Asia, March 2007)
  • David M. Lampton. Same Bed, Different Dreams: Managing U.S.-China relations, 1989-2000. (Stanford Magazine, March/April 2002)
  • Yung-chen Chiang. Social Engineering and the Social Sciences in China, 1919-1949. (China Information, Volume XVI, No. 1, 2002)
  • Henry Yuhuai He. Dictionary of the Political Thought of the People’s Republic of China. (China Information, Volume XV, No. 2, 2001)
  • Harriet Evans and Stephanie Donald, ed. Picturing Power in the PRC: Posters of the Cultural Revolution. (China Information, Volume XV, No. 1, 2001)