Els van Dongen is an intellectual historian of modern and contemporary China. She is primarily concerned with Chinese intellectuals, both as state and society actors, and the production, circulation, and organization of knowledge within the broader context of Chinese engagements with modernity in a transnational setting.
Els van Dongen aims to write intellectual histories in which history and transnational concerns take center stage. Firstly, she is interested in how changing historical conditions affect the organization of knowledge, particularly through the lens of conceptual history and “isms” (zhuyi) in China. In her ongoing book project, Realistic Revolutionaries: Debating Politics, History and Culture in 1990s China, she analyzes the reception of “isms” in post-1989 China and how this intersects with the rewriting of history, attempts to reorganize knowledge, and efforts to redefine the role of intellectuals. Branching out from this, she has also investigated changing meanings of nationalism in China and India from the angle of the interconnection between diaspora policies, discursive forms of diaspora engagement, and conceptions of the nation. Secondly, she is concerned with historiographical practices and the role of history and foreign theory in Chinese public debate, especially in a post-socialist environment. Prior to joining NTU, she studied and conducted research in Belgium (University of Leuven), the Netherlands (Leiden University), China (Central China Normal University and Peking University), and the USA (Boston University). She completed a Ph.D. in Chinese Studies at Leiden University with the support of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Fulbright Foundation.
Currently, Els van Dongen is working on two new projects. A first project, based on her Tier 1 Grant, looks at the role of educational institutions for Chinese overseas students in cultural diplomacy efforts in the PRC. A second project investigates the reception of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s thought in 1990s China.
• (with Liu Hong). “China’s Diaspora Policies as a New Mode of Transnational Governance.” Journal of Contemporary China 25.102: 805-821 (December 2016).
• “Confucianism, Community, Capitalism: Chen Lai and the Spirit of Max Weber,” in Hon, Tze-ki and Kristin Stapleton (Eds.), Confucianism for the Contemporary World: Global Order, Political Plurality, and Social Action (SUNY Press, forthcoming, 2017).
• “Behind the Ties that Bind: Diaspora-making and Nation-building in China and India in Historical Perspective, 1850s-2010s,” Asian Studies Review 41.1 (March 2017, online first December 2016).