In: The Imperial Creation of Ethnicity
Liping Wang
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This book is based on the dissertation that I completed in December 2013 during my time in Chicago. The contents emerged from a long work process and I owe many people my gratitude. As a young Ph.D. student, I committed wholeheartedly to my dissertation field which came about by luck. I fondly remember my second year at the University of Chicago, when I took an independent course on family history with my advisor, Professor Andrew Abbott. I had always considered myself as a theory person before I discovered the fascinating world of historical sociology through this course. I met with my advisor every week and had many wonderful conversations with him. I can no longer recall the entire list of books we read, but I felt the charm of scholarship because of this course, and the experience has stayed with me deeply and will stay with me forever. During the nine years of Ph.D. study at the University of Chicago, my advisor taught me, slowly but surely, the art of doing research work. He responded patiently and thoughtfully to my numerous inquiries. He continued to mentor me long after I graduated, found gainful employment in the academia, and received tenure. He has even been supportive during the process of finishing this book, and I’m sure he will always be there for me. I learned from him not only knowledge and skills, but most of all, loyalty to the work that I am truly in love with. I am indebted to his support during my studies and now in my career.

I am also most appreciative to my other dissertation committee members. I became acquainted with Professor Julia Adams in my third year at the University of Chicago. She was not only an examiner for my first special field exam (on State and Family), a dissertation committee member, the mentor who walked me through historical sociology and guided me during my first English publication (which was co-authored with her) on this topic, but also a close and life-long friend, and a role model of a female scholar to me. Her extensive knowledge of European history broadened my horizons immensely. Her passion, encouragement and cheerfulness warmed and inspired every student around her with no exceptions. Working with her made me truly appreciate the liveliness of academic life and I hope that this feeling will never go away. Professor Peter Perdue introduced me to the field of frontier history while I was an exchange student at Yale for a semester. His knowledge of Chinese history was so helpful, and his writing is always a model of emulation for all students. He is never too busy to offer timely support. Professor Dingxin Zhao introduced me to Sociology at the University of Chicago where I have found the greatest joy of intellectual life. He is a teacher full of intellectual vitality, good cheer and kindness. I appreciated all of his help during my time at the University of Chicago.

I conducted several field trips while working on this project, which would have never happened without the help of my Mongolian colleagues. I wish to thank Yuefei Song, Oyunbileg and my other friends at the Inner Mongolia University. My M.A. adviser, Professor Shanhua Yang, kindly bridged this connection. It was a trip to the Inner Mongolia University in the winter of 2009 that substantively changed the topic of my dissertation. My Mongolian colleagues have a touching enthusiasm for my topic of study. They showed utmost hospitality to me, a young student who was interested in the interactions between the Mongols and Han. They patiently answered all of my questions, and allowed me to freely browse and make copies of their precious archival sources in their library, even on holidays. I gained tremendously from their friendship, which continued when I began to work on other projects.

Thanks also goes to my many colleagues, friends and acquaintances in the US, Hong Kong and Beijing. I met Professor Mark Gould in 2013–14 when I taught theory and historical sociology at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. Mark is a great mentor and friend. He read some parts of this book and gave detailed and helpful comments. His humor and generosity, and the wonderful meals he treated us in Haverford are a lovely memory. Professor Kenneth Pomeranz was my mentor when I was a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows in Chicago. He read the entire dissertation and offered very useful comments for its revision. I also became acquainted with Professor Mingke Wang while attending the Eastern Asia Workshop at the University of Chicago in 2009, and met him a few more times later in Taipei and Hong Kong. His thorough knowledge of the frontier history of China demonstrates his expertise in the area and he is such an invaluable resource. I want to thank my dissertation group members, Kimberly Austin, Besheer Mohamed, Greg Liegel and Rafael Santana, who read and provided wonderful comments in the early days of the first few chapters, my friends Sida Liu, Nicholas Wilson, Xiaohong Xu, Yi Wang, Xiaoli Tian, Cheris Chan, Paul Joosse, and David Palmer, all of who I met in different places around the globe and offered great comments on this project in the different stages. Much of the revision of this book was done during the period when I was Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong (2015–2019). I want to specially thank our writing group members (Xiaoli and Paul). Those wonderful days in the Senior Common Room at the University of Hong Kong made this book a reality. I returned to teach at the Peking University in 2019, a place where my dream of being in the academia was first nurtured. I want to thank my former teachers, in particular Professor Shanhua Yang, Professor Jingdong Qu and Professor Meng Li, whose continuous support—in both the material and spiritual senses—over the years has been invaluable. They are simply the kind of teacher I want to be.

I also wish to acknowledge the many people and institutions that have provided me with important support. I am thankful to Christopher Winters at the University of Chicago, whose inexhaustible expertise in cartography has helped me solve many questions about historical maps. During the manuscript revision, student research assistants Kato Chan and Litao Han helped with the data collection, Bochu Liu with the compilation of maps, Lina Wu and Yuge Lang with the translation of the Mongolian and Manchu sources, Qichen Zhao, Jingru Wang, Yujing Jia Tenggis and Peifan Li with the editing and checking of errors. I appreciate their hard work and enjoyed working with them. The editors of Brill Publishers, in particular Patricia Radder, offered their patient and generous help.

Parts of the book have been presented at different conferences and workshops. I want to thank all of these event organizers, even though there isn’t enough space to name all of them. The revision of the manuscript was funded by the Early Career Scheme Grant (The University Grants Committee, Hong Kong), and Seed Funding Program for Basic Research of The University of Hong Kong. The image of the cover is from the “Zhong E jiao jie quan tu” (by Jun Hong, 1890), which is credited to the Library of Congress ( Parts of Chapters 2 and 3 have appeared in two articles, “‘State, Relational Governance and Nomads’ Sedentarization: Land Reform in Inner Mongolia, 1900–1911” (Comparative Studies in Society and History 56 [3]: 714–744) and “From Masterly Brokers to Compliant Protégées: The Frontier Governance System and the Rise of Ethnic Confrontation in China-Inner Mongolia, 1900–1930” (The American Journal of Sociology 120 [6]: 1641–1689).

Finally, I wish to express my appreciation to my parents for their unconditional support and love, and for being always cheerful about my work. My father passed away in 2017 and did not see the publication of this book, which is such a sad regret. Yet, I will remember his cheerfulness for the rest of my life and strive to be a gentle and determined person like him. My mother taught me about devotion to children. She is the best grandma and brought delicious food to the table during my most intense pre-tenure period. Thanks to my son Leo whose birth in the last year of my dissertation brought a happy surprise to the family. He has taught me the most important lesson of parenthood—love is being patient. He brings ideas, humor, kindness and comfort to the family. I thank Geng Tian, who is the first reader of my work and my most reliable and solid source of support. Family brings tranquil sweetness to life which makes one feel as though s/he never suffers from working.

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