China Research Workshop 中国研究讲座 Lunch Discussion RSVP
Friday, April 28, 2017 | 12:00-1:30 p.m. | Social Science Building 107 (ground level conference room)

"The Case against Law: A Historical and Institutional Approach to Local Disputes in the Qing Dynasty"

Presenter: Maura Dykstra, Assistant Professor of History, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Caltech

Abstract: Ever since David Buxbaum’s seminal article on “civil cases” in the Tan-Hsin Archives in the 1970s, the study of Chinese legal history has been revolutionized by a focus on the local practice of law. In the intervening decades, new research has employed previously unexploited sources to illustrate the local practice of law in the late Chinese empire. This paper posits that the discoveries of historians working in local archives should not be studied only within the framework of the law but rather by beginning with an understanding of the way that court cases were handled within the bureaucratic system of the empire. This piece takes a first step in that direction by summarizing the bureaucratic, legal, and phenomenological dimensions that combined to dictate how local cases were handled. It then provides a summary glimpse at how future studies of Qing courts might further contextualize patently local court practices and their place in the larger governing apparatus of the Chinese empire.


CRW provides a forum for the presentation of original research by China scholars from around the country in social science and humanities, co-sponsored by Fudan-UC Center on Contemporary China and 21st Century China Program at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy & Strategy. To view archive and upcoming workshops list, visit:

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