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Research Projects



Dr. Peter Cunich


Dr. Peter Cunich is currently director of the University of Hong Kong Centenary History Project. This project has involved the collation of widely scattered documentary sources from Hong Kong, Britain and the USA, interviews of former staff and students, and a close involvement in the establishment and development of the University Archives since 2006. The first volume of the centenary history, covering the period 1911-1945, was published by HKU Press in 2012. Dr. Cunich is currently working on the second volume, covering the postwar development of the University of Hong Kong.



Professor Frank Dikötter


Professor Frank Dikötter is completing a project on the history of the cult of personality in the twentieth century. This complex project spans eight different countries and the work explores this topic through eight case studies, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Mao, Duvalier, Ceausescu and Mengistu.



Dr. Staci Ford


Dr. Staci Ford is working on a project which will create a "Stories Matter Narrative Archive." She is undertaking a series of oral history interviews with couples who are balancing careers and families. She also plans to keep an eye on singles who may have stories that inform the conversation - asking does a focus on dual careers marginalize issues singles face?



Prof. Robert Peckham


Prof. Robert Peckham is currently working on a project that will produce a history of the Eastern Mediterranean's relations to Asia from the eighteenth century to the present through the prism of disease outbreaks: plague, cholera, influenza, and malaria. The work brings together two longstanding interests: on the histories of disease and medicine in Asia and on the geopolitics of the post-Ottoman world. It reconsiders the Eastern Mediterranean as a critical zone in the co-constitution of 'Europe' and 'Asia.' The aim is to provide a historical context for contemporary concerns as the post-Ottoman order in the region gives way and a host of interrelated factors, including mass migration and the breakdown of state infrastructures, are driving the re-emergence of disease.


Prof. Peckham is also working on a GRF-funded project Techno-Imperialism and the Origins of Global Health which explores the intertwining of communication technologies and disease surveillance from the end of the nineteenth century, tracking the mobilization of telegraphic networks, telephones and radio for disease prevention and management operations. The book shows how imperial communication circuits provided a framework for global health initiatives. It excavates the imperial prehistory of contemporary global health.



Professor David Pomfret


Currently, Professor Pomfret is working on a RGC GRF project examining trans-colonial cultures of youth in Asia from the late 19th to the mid 20th century. European society in colonial places was often strikingly young. What implications did this have? The project examines the difference that age made to colonialism and imperialism in Europe's empires. Using a trans-colonial and comparative approach looking across empires it reveals how the cultures of youth flourishing in empire places in East and Southeast Asia affected the broad course of European history. The project shows how the youthfulness became a principal criterion for membership of foreign society 'Out East,' and powerfully informed the way 'Europeans' and others saw themselves; how the demographic youthfulness of foreign societies from Saigon to Shanghai posed a multitute of challenges to governments; and how it defined the cultures and institutions of colonialism in places such as Hong Kong, Hanoi, Saigon, and Singapore. This project contributes to an important new research agenda tracing the global genealogies of youth cultural practice and it reveals how youth mobility connected empire worlds.



Dr. Oscar Sanchez-Sibony


Dr. Oscar Sanchez-Sibony is currently working out questions on the financial and international history of the Soviet Union at two disparate points of its history. The first concerns itself with the NEP era, a time when the Bolsheviks signed up to the keystone of the interwar international liberal project: the gold standard. Understanding money as a social institution and finance as a political technology, he investigates the meaning the social meaning of the economic choices the leaders of the Soviet Union made.


His second line of inquiry involves the financialization of the global economy that followed the end of the Bretton Woods system in the 1970s and its effects on the Soviet Union. Concurrent with this financialization were the oil shocks of that decade, which gave the Soviet leadership the kind of capital reserves it had longed for during its history. Oscar's research examines what it means for a country's foreign relations to become subject to the logic of credit and capital.



Professor Charles Schencking


Following Japan's most deadly and destructive natural disaster—the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923—Americans responded to Japan's suffering with an outpouring of aid unrivalled to this day. Professor Schencking's study explores the simple, yet poignant question: Why? Why did Americans give so much and what did they hope for in return? How was aid given and why is this case of American humanitarianism so unique? America's Tsunami of Aid illustrates how a complex set of perceived humanitarian obligations coupled with opportunistic visions for economic and political gain defined America's aid campaign for Japan. In doing so, it paints an entirely new picture of America's interwar internationalism, Japanese-American relations, and of 1920s America itself. It also revolutionizes the understanding of the American Red Cross, President Calvin Coolidge, and the origins of what Professor Schencking describes as the beginnings of America's humanitarian century abroad, 1918 to 2017.


America's Tsunami of Aid does not look at this extraordinary "humanitarian moment" exclusively from the side of the givers. Drawing on a wealth of materials from Japanese archives, this study also explores how Japanese officials and citizens used donated cash and materials. Importantly it also documents how Japan expressed its gratitude toward Americans through a series of soft-power public relations campaigns coupled with a frenzy of economic activity within America. When completed, this study will appeal to scholars and students of American, Japanese, and Asian American history as well as those interested in humanitarianism and natural disasters. It will also appeal to the general public. Professor Schencking's study conveys a story that will make Americans feel proud about their international philanthropic past and hopefully, encourage everyone to rethink the importance of global humanitarian engagements in an era of increasing popular nationalism.



Dr. Carol Tsang


Dr. Carol Tsang is currently completing the monograph, Better Babies: Reproduction in Modern Hong Kong, which explores a wide range of discourses about reproduction that the government, elites, obstetricians, and journalists produced and circulated in the twentieth century, a period when Hong Kong became increasingly connected with the outside world. These important groups advised women, sometimes their spouses, on how to make more and better babies, and how to control their fertility. They engineered substantial reforms by implementing policies, funding institutions, and providing free or low-cost maternal health services and contraception. On a conceptual level, her project uses oral histories, and media technologies including the newspapers, and the radio and television broadcasting to examine the production, reproduction, and transmission of knowledge about pregnancy, childbirth, and family planning. With these literary and visual representations, she aims to uncover ordinary people's obscure past by deconstructing the dialogues between the government, educated elites, and commoners.

What's Up?
Dr. Priscilla Song Dr. Priscilla Song received the 2018 Francis Hsu Book Prize from the Society for East Asian Anthropology.
Prof. Xu Guoqi Prof. Charles Schencking is awarded the 2017 Faculty Knowledge Exchange Prize.
Prof. Xu Guoqi Prof. David Pomfret is awarded the 2017 Grace Abbott Book Prize.
Prof. Frank Dikotter Prof. Frank Dikötter has been appointed a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.