Dr Daniel Knorr

Temporary Lecturer in Modern Asian History
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My research and teaching focus on the early modern and modern periods of Chinese history, particularly the relationship between local communities and the state, urban history, and translocal mobility. World historical perspectives are an important component of both my teaching and my research, shaping how I look at historical problems through a comparative framework and how I examine global currents and local and narratives in light of each other.

I received my PhD from the University of Chicago and worked as a Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences there in 2020. I hold master’s degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of California, Irvine and completed my undergraduate study at Johns Hopkins University. I also attended the Inter-University Program for Chinese language study in 2010–11. I received a Fulbright fellowship to support research in China in 2016–17.

The core topics of my research are the durability and dynamism of senses of place over time and how the ways in which people relate to specific places contribute to the formation of larger political identities (empires and nation-states). Because I consider both place-making and state-formation to be multi-faceted processes, my research combines elements of political, social, and cultural history. I have particular interests in urban history, theories of empire and state-formation, and the regional history of north China.

My first book project, which is based on my dissertation, is a study of urban society and political institutions in Jinan, a provincial capital in north China, during the Qing Dynasty. One of the key findings of my research is that Jinan’s connections to other places were very important to both the city’s social structures and the identity of its elite. This is somewhat surprising since it wasn’t a major commercial center, as most of the cities that have received a great deal of attention from historians were. Instead, Jinan’s cosmopolitanism largely owed to its place in the Qing administrative system, which circulated people from all over the empire through the city. This makes it impossible to analyze the conditions of local society apart from the operation of the state. Likewise, I argue that we should understand a variety of placemaking activities that spilled beyond the confines of the government as constitutive of the state, not subversive of or external to it. I argue that the relationship between placemaking and state-building we see in Jinan was indicative of a hybrid form of imperial and national state-building under the Qing that was, at least locally, surprisingly durable into the early twentieth century.

My second project examines the place of north China in the political culture of modern China through the lens of ideas about it as a conservative region. It explores how ideas of north-south difference emerged over the early modern period, how modern conservatism emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and how these dynamics informed ideas about and policies toward north China in what we generally describe as China’s transition from empire to nation after the fall of the Qing Dynasty.

As a member of the World History subject group, I provide lectures and supervisions for both Paper 21 and Paper 23. I also contribute to teaching in undergraduate options and the MPhil in World History.

Member, American Historical Association; Member, Association for Asian Studies; Member, Global Urban History Project

I am glad to hear from prospective postgraduate students interested in researching the history of early modern or modern China or aspects of world history related to my research interests.

Articles and chapters

"Placing the American State in the Interior of China: The Jinan Missionary Case, 1881–1891," The Pacific Historical Review (forthcoming 2021).

“Debating China’s Destiny: Writing the Nation’s Past and Future in Wartime China” in 1943: China at the Crossroads, ed. Joseph Esherick and Matthew Combs (Cornell East Asia Program, 2015), pp. 168–202. Translated by Chen Xiao as “Bianlun Zhongguo zhi mingyun: zai kangzhan shiqi shuxie Zhonghua minzu de guoqu he weilai,” in 1943: Zhongguo zai shizi lukou (Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2016; Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 2017).

Online publications

“Teach Like You Write,” Inside Higher Ed, Gradhacker, November 9, 2018. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/teach-you-write.

“Isn’t That Just Ancient History?” #AsiaNow, June 27, 2018. http://www.asian-studies.org/asia-now/entryid/157.

“After 50 Years, ‘Marketing and Social Structure in Rural China’ Remains a China Studies Classic,” #AsiaNow, May 17, 2018. http://www.asian-studies.org/asia-now/entryid/149.

“A Conference on Chinese Cities in World History,” Global Urban History Blog, July 4, 2017. https://globalurbanhistory.com/2017/07/04/a-conference-on-chinese-cities-in-world-history/.

“The President Elect and the Generalissimo,” Los Angeles Review of Books Blog, The China Blog, November 23, 2016. http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/chinablog/‌‌president-elect-generalissimo/.

“The Internet and China’s Response to the Japan Earthquake,” The China Beat: Blogging How the East is Read, April 25, 2011. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1857&context=chinabeatarchive.