I am a historian of twentieth-century China and Inner Asia, with a research focus on official culture and nation formation in the socialist periphery. In particular, I study the cultural history of the transborder Uyghur nation, whose formation was closely intertwined with the twentieth century’s two largest socialist states. My dissertation demonstrates that socialist policies, implemented in China’s northwest borderlands long before the founding of the People’s Republic, enabled the small Sino-Soviet frontier community of Ili—long considered a cultural backwater by most other Uyghurs—to transform its local culture into the new Uyghur national culture.
My work as a cultural historian is informed and inspired by the seven years I spent living in Ürümchi, capital of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In addition to working there as a translator, I completed a master’s degree in Uyghur literature at Xinjiang Normal University, with a thesis on Uyghur modernist poetry. When I'm not working on cultural history, I moonlight as a poetry translator.
email: freeman01 at fas dot harvard dot edu