Glasserman, Aaron

Field: International and Global; Advisor: Zelin; Year: 2015

Aaron Glasserman is an anthropological historian of Islam and Muslims in China. He combines documentary and ethnographic research to study how ritual, law, and debate shape social relations among Muslims and between Muslims and non-Muslims in late imperial and modern China. His recent research focuses on Henan Province in central China. He has conducted research in Muslim communities, mosques, and archives throughout mainland China and in Taiwan, Japan, and Turkey.

His broader research interests include law and religion in late imperial and modern China; anthropological history; ritual; law and custom; bureaucracy and bureaucratization; religion-state relations; shari‘a; religious authority in modern Islam; and the relationships of China’s rulers and of China’s Muslim communities to other governments and Muslims abroad.

He has been as a TA for a range of classes on pre-modern and modern Chinese history and modern global and international history: “Major Topics in East Asian Civilization,” “Gender and Power in China,” “History of US-East Asia Relations,” and “World History since World War 2.” He is developing an original undergraduate course, “Difference and Dissent: Religion and Law in China since the Qing,” which examines law and religion as elements of and challenges to the multiple normative orders administered by China’s rulers since the seventeenth century. The course also considers how notions of despotism, syncretism, and folk belief have qualified Chinese law and religion in the western social science imaginary and have been central to claims about essential differences between “China” and “the West.”     

He is currently writing a dissertation, Chinese Islam Objectified: Authority and Tradition in a Modern Polity. It argues that the activities and discourses of a network of clerics in the first half of the twentieth century produced Chinese Islam, both as tradition and as an object of bureaucratic administration and academic inquiry. Based on written sources in Chinese, Arabic, and Japanese as well as ethnographic research in Henan, the dissertation focuses on the history of Chinese Islam to advance understanding of religious change in the modern world and the co-production of knowledge by those claiming to represent a tradition and those seeking to control it.

He graduated from Princeton University (2013, summa cum laude) with a BA in Near Eastern Studies and certificates in Chinese Language and Culture and Arabic Language and Culture. He also holds an MA (2017) and MPhil (2018) in History from Columbia University. His research has been supported by the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Esherick and Ye Family Foundation, the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund, and the Spiegel Fund.