Thomas S. Mullaney

Associate Professor of History

At Stanford Since

Ph.D., Columbia University, Department of History, 2006; M.A., Columbia University, Department of History, 2004; M.A., Johns Hopkins University, Humanities Center, 2000; B.A., Johns Hopkins University, East Asian Studies/ International Studies, 1999
Headshot of Tom Mullaney

Bio Sketch

Thomas S. Mullaney is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese History, and received his Ph.D. in History in 2006 from Columbia University. He is the author of Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China (University of California Press, 2011, Foreword by Benedict Anderson). This book charts the history of China’s 1954 Ethnic Classification project (minzu shibie), a joint social scientific-Communist state expedition wherein a group of ethnologists, linguists, and Party cadres traveled to the most ethnically diverse province in the People’s Republic to determine which minority communities would and would not be officially recognized by the state. He is also principal editor of Critical Han Studies: The History, Representation and Identity of China’s Majority, a pathbreaking volume that examines China’s majority ethnonational group. His current book project, The Chinese Typewriter: A Global History, examines China’s nineteenth- and twentieth-century development of a character-based information infrastructure encompassing Chinese telegraphy, typewriting, character retrieval systems, shorthand, Braille, word processing, and computing. He is also the founding editor of Dissertation Reviews, an online scholarly community that features recently defended dissertations in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Research Interests

  • Modern China and Modern East Asia
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Nation Formation and Modern Governmentality
  • STS/History of Science
  • Transnational and Comparative World History
  • Intellectual History
  • Linguistics

Current Research

  • The Chinese Typewriter: A Global History (book project in progress)



Book cover, Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern ChinaComing to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011 (Foreword by Benedict Anderson)

Winner of the 2011 AHA-Pacific Coast Branch Book Award for best first book in any field of historical study



Book cover: Critical Han StudiesCritical Han Studies: The History, Representation, and Identity of China's Majority (co-edited with James Leibold, Stephane Gros, and Eric Vanden Bussche) (University of California Press, 2012)




Articles and Chapters

  • "The Moveable Typewriter: How Chinese Typists Developed Predictive Text during the Height of Maoism." (Technology and Culture, October 2012) [Winner of the Abbott Payson Usher Prize, 2013]
  • "Critical Han Studies: Introduction and Prolegomenon." In Critical Han Studies: The History, Identity and Representation of China's Majority. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.
  • "Seeing for the State: The Role of Social Scientists in China’s Ethnic Classification Project." (Asian Ethnicity, Volume 11, no. 3, October 2010)
  • "Introducing Critical Han Studies," China Heritage Quarterly, September 30, 2009
  • “The Chinese Typewriter,”The China Beat, May 14, 2009
  • “The Final Rite of Passage.” In From Concept to Completion: A Dissertation-Writing Guide for History Students, edited by the American Historical Association Graduate and Early Career Committee. Washington, D.C.: American Historical Association, 2009
  • "Ethnic Classification Writ Large: The 1954 Yunnan Province Ethnic Classification Project and its Foundations in Republican-Era Taxonomic Thought." (China Information, Volume 18, No. 2, July 2004). Visit here for complete article (requires subscription)
  • Editor's Introduction to the Special Issue on Ethnic Classification. (China Information, Volume 18, No. 2, July 2004). Visit here for complete article (requires subscription)

Fellowships and Awards

  • Abbott Payson Usher Prize, 2013
  • National Science Foundation 3-Year Grant (Science, Technology and Society award for project "A History of the Impact of Euro-American Linguistic Technologies on Chinese Information Infrastructure.")
  • 2011 American Historical Association-Pacific Branch Award
  • Annenberg Faculty Fellow, 2010-12
  • William H. and Frances Green Faculty Fellow, Stanford University, 2010-11
  • Freeman Spogli Institute China Fund, 2010-11
  • Hellman Faculty Scholar, 2009
  • ACLS/Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation “New Perspectives on Chinese Culture and Society” Award, 2008
  • Stanford College Dean’s Office of Humanities and Sciences Award, 2008
  • Weatherhead Foundation Summer Fellowship, 2004
  • Social Science Research Council International Pre- Dissertation Fellowship, 2002-2003
  • Blakemore Foundation Fellowship for Advanced Asian Language Studies, 2002-2003
  • Japan Foundation Japanese Language Training Program for Postgraduate Students
  • Columbia University Weatherhead Foundation Fellowship, 2000-2006

Public Lectures and Interviews

Courses Taught

  • History of Modern China
  • Mao Zedong: The Man Who Would Become China
  • Race and Ethnicity in East Asia
  • History of Information
  • Communism and Revolution in China
  • Chinese Science, Technology, and Medicine
  • Major Topics in Modern Chinese History: The Qing-Republican Transition
  • Major Topics in Modern Chinese History: The Communist Revolution
  • Research Seminar in Modern Chinese History

Conference and Invited Papers (selected list)

  • "Incompatible with Modernity: The Chinese Typewriter in the Western Imagination." (American Historical Association Annual Meeting 2012)
  • "Splitting the Chinese Atom: Lin Yutang, the MingKwai Typewriter, and the Crisis of Information in 20th Century China." (City University of Hong Kong, December 19, 2011)
  • "Chinese Telegraphy and Chinese Typewriting in Global Historical Perspective." (Ohio State University, May 27, 2011)
  • "The People's Republic of Predictive Text: How Chinese Typists in the Communist Period Anticipated the Computer Age." (Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting 2011)
  • "Radical Machines: On Chinese Typewriters and the Twin Traditions of Chinese Linguistic Modernity." (Harvard University, October 25, 2010)
  • "'Ten Characters a Minute': The Discourse of the Chinese Typewriter and the Persistence of Orientalist Thought." (Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting 2010)
  • “The Typing Rebellion: Toward a Global History of the Chinese Typewriter” (History of Science Society, 2009 Annual Meeting, Phoenix, AZ)
  • “The Chinese Typewriter: The Global History of a Curious Invention and Those Who Misunderstood It.” (Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication, August 20, 2009)
  • “Categorizing Yunnan: The 1954 Ethnic Classification Project (minzu shibie).” (Fudan University, Shanghai, China, July 28, 2009)
  • “Meditations on the Han Figurine: How to Conceptualize, Research and Teach the Largest Ethnic Group on Earth.” (University of Washington, March 5, 2009)
  • “Han, Non-Han, and Non: Notions of Majority, Minority, and Miscellany in the Study of Southwestern China.” (Stanford University, Critical Han Studies Conference and Workshop, April 25-27, 2008)
  • “Ethnic Diversity in Contemporary China: Surface and Depth.” (Johns Hopkins University, March 28, 2008)
  • “Between Han Chauvinism and Local Nationalism: Ethnic Iconography in China.” (Stanford University, Center for East Asian Studies, February 21, 2008)
  • “The Other Origin of Species: Ethnic Categorization and Ethnic Identity in Contemporary China.” (University of Oregon, October 22, 2007)
  • “Henry Rodolph Davies: The Link Between Colonial India and the People’s Republic of China.” (Crossing Borders and Paradigms: Anthropology of Southwest China Reconsidered, Dali, Yunnan Province, August 7-15, 2007) [Co-Sponsored by Centre for Ethnological & Anthropological Theories and Methods at The Central University for Nationalities (Beijing) and School of Southwestern Minority Studies at The Southwestern University for Nationalities (Chengdu)]
  • “Han, Solo: Understanding the Ethnonational Divide in Communist China." (University of California Irvine, Rethinking Divides in the Study of China, April 28, 2007)
  • “Ten meditations on extinction.” (UCLA, Department of Information Studies, Design for Forgetting and Exclusion Workshop, April 13-15, 2007)
  • “‘I’m gonna make you love me’ Social engineering, disobedient science, and Chinese Communist state power.” (Stanford University, Center for East Asian Studies, November 27, 2006)
  • “Ariadne's Clue of Thread: Towards a Forensic Model of Existence.” (UCLA, Department of Information Studies, November 16, 2006)


  • Sigrid Schmalzer. The People's Peking Man: Popular Science and Human Identity in Twentieth-Century China. (Journal of Asian Studies, Volume 69, Number 2, 2010)
  • Ian R. Bartky. One Time Fits All: The Campaigns for Global Uniformity. (Science Magazine, February 2008)
  • Benjamin A. Elman, On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900. (Eighteenth Century Studies, Volume 40, Number 3, Spring 2007)
  • Benjamin A. Elman. A Cultural History of Modern Science in China. (Science Magazine, January 2007)
  • Suisheng Zhao. A Nation-State by Construction: Dynamics of Modern Chinese Nationalism. (H-Nationalism, January 2007; reprinted H-Asia, March 2007)
  • David M. Lampton. Same Bed, Different Dreams: Managing U.S.-China relations, 1989-2000. (Stanford Magazine, March/April 2002)
  • Yung-chen Chiang, Social Engineering and the Social Sciences in China, 1919-1949. (China Information, Volume XVI, No. 1, 2002)
  • Henry Yuhuai He, Dictionary of the Political Thought of the People's Republic of China. (China Information, Volume XV, No. 2, 2001)
  • Harriet Evans and Stephanie Donald, ed., Picturing Power in the PRC: Posters of the Cultural Revolution. (China Information, Volume XV, No. 1, 2001)