Campus & Community

Elizabeth J. Perry named director of Harvard-Yenching Institute

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Elizabeth J. Perry, a scholar whose work has illuminated the study of Chinese politics, has been appointed director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute, effective July 1, 2008.

Perry is the Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). She succeeds Tu Wei-ming, Harvard-Yenching Professor of Chinese History and Philosophy and of Confucian Studies, who has served as director of the institute since 1996.

“In Professor Perry, we have a person combining academic excellence and deep knowledge of both Asia and Harvard. She is a worthy successor to Professor Tu and our former directors,” says Peter F. Geithner, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Harvard-Yenching Institute.

Perry specializes in modern and contemporary Asian history and politics. She has a particular interest in grassroots governance and social protest, and her research has centered on the labor strikes, peasant rebellions, and revolutions that have occurred in China since the mid-19th century.

“She is an internationally recognized specialist on Asia,” Geithner says. “We are delighted that she will be joining the institute next year.”

A prolific writer, Perry serves on the editorial board of many major scholarly journals and is the author of numerous books. Her recent works include “Patrolling the Revolution: Worker Militias, Citizenship and the Modern Chinese State” (2006) and “Grassroots Political Reform in Contemporary China” (2007). She received the John King Fairbank Prize from the American Historical Association for her book “Shanghai on Strike: the Politics of Chinese Labor” (1993).

Perry, 58, was born in China and raised in Japan. After attending Hobart and William Smith College, she received an M.A. in political science from the University of Washington, Seattle, in 1971. She also holds a Ph.D. in political science, awarded by the University of Michigan in 1978. Prior to joining the Harvard faculty in 1997, Perry taught at the University of California, Berkeley; National Taiwan University; and the University of Washington.

Public service has been an integral part of Perry’s career. She has directed the Seattle China Council and serves on boards of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, the Hong Kong Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, the Tsinghua Center for Contemporary China, and the Association for Asian Studies, of which she is currently president. Perry is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and she received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1994.

“As director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute,” Perry says, “I hope to build upon the strong foundation laid by Professor Tu to broaden further the activities of the institute, both geographically and programmatically.”

The Harvard-Yenching Institute was founded in 1928. The institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the humanities and social sciences in higher education in Asia, with a particular emphasis on culture. Among its wide array of activities, the Harvard-Yenching Institute operates visiting scholars programs, in which faculty members and graduate students from selected Asian universities receive fellowships for study and research at the institute and at Harvard. The institute also supports the Harvard-Yenching Library and several publications series.

Tu was the sixth director to lead the institute since 1928. According to Geithner, during Tu’s tenure the institute’s programs have grown significantly, especially in relation to China.

“Professor Tu’s highly successful tenure has enabled the institute and Harvard to engage with China in a uniquely valuable way, expanding its programs while maintaining its emphasis on scholarly excellence and exchange,” Geithner says.