Luther Cox Cenci

M.A. in History, University of British Columbia (2018)
B.A. in History, Highest Honors, UC Berkeley (2015)
Dissertation Title
A Sea of Law: Communal Politics and Vernacular Legal Culture in the Chinese Diaspora, 1780-1920

I am a PhD candidate in East Asian History, and my research explores the connected histories of Qing China, the Chinese diaspora, and British and Dutch colonialism in Southeast Asia. My work aims to interrogate the disciplinary borders between East Asian and Southeast Asian history, the early modern and modern periods, and the colonist and colonized. More generally, my research and teaching priorities include framing Chinese history within a global context and asking what historical experiences with living with (and making) diversity have to contribute to contemporary discussions about globalization, migration, and pluralism.

I am currently writing my dissertation, entitled A Sea of Law: Communal Politics and Vernacular Legal Culture in the Chinese Diaspora, 1780-1920. In it, I examine the unexpected itineraries, mutations, and afterlives of late imperial Chinese legal culture across the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia during the long 19th century. Empirically, my study uses archives in classical and vernacular Chinese, Dutch, and English and situated in Hong Kong, Singapore, Jakarta, London, and the Hague. Viewed together, they reveal how the communal identities and institutions of Chinese migrants and their descendants were shaped by world-historical forces: the rise of global capitalism and European colonialism, the contest between liberal and pluralist models of law and sovereignty, and the transformation and eventual collapse of the late Qing state.