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Erica Brindley

Erica Brindley

Professor of Asian Studies, History and Philosophy

201B Old Botany
University Park , PA 16802

Curriculum Vitae

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  1. PhD, Princeton University, 2002
  2. BA, Princeton University, 1993


I am an intellectual and cultural historian of early China (500 BC to 200 CE) interested in the development of premodern East Asia, especially a region I (and collaborators) call SEAMZ (the Southeast Asian Maritime Zone). My first three monographs concern ancient Chinese thought and intellectual history, and they explore the many ways thinkers envisioned the self and other in society and the world: Individualism in Early China: Human Agency and the Self in Thought and Politics (University of Hawaii Press, 2010); Music, Cosmology, and the Politics of Harmony in Early China (State University of New York Press, 2012); and Ancient China and the Yue: Perceptions and Identities on the Southern Frontier, c.400 BCE - 50 CE (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Currently, I’m working on a dedicated study of an ancient intellectual school called the Mohists, which came together as quasi-military, religious groups that trained men in technical sciences, disputation, and ethics. I’m interested in their perceived project of standardizing, organizing, and regulating knowledge (which I refer to as the “mass production of knowledge”) and how it affected practices of knowledge and science in East Asia. Another aspect of my current work involves rethinking the networked relationships that connected much of the southeastern parts of continental Eurasia (specifically, “China” south of the Yangzi River) to areas in Southeast Asia. Collaborators and I are fostering interdisciplinary discussions to better understand how large portions of this zone got incorporated over the millennia into the Chinese realm. As the co-editor with Rowan Flad (archaeology, Harvard University) on a new, 5-year publication series called “Cambridge Elements,” Ancient East Asia (published by Cambridge University Press), I hope to bring together the writing of established experts in the disciplines of history, literature, archaeology, and linguistics to provide new, multi-disciplinary, and cutting-edge research on the global history of this major part of the ancient world.  

Recent Publications:

Ancient China and the Yue: Perceptions and Identities on the Southern Frontier, c.400 BCE - 50 CE. Cambridge University Press, September 2015.

Music, Cosmology, and the Politics of Harmony in Early ChinaState University of New York Press, August, 2012.

Individualism in Early China: Human Agency and the Self in Thought and PoliticsUniversity of Hawaii Press, 2010.

Co-editor, Maritime Frontiers in Asia: Sino-Viet Relations in the 2nd Millennium CE. Special volume and “Introduction” in Asia Major 27.2 (November, 2014). Based on the proceedings of the conference, “Maritime Frontiers in Asia: Indigenous Communities and State Control in South China and Southeast Asia, 2000 BCE – 1800 CE, Penn State University, April 12-13, 2013.” (Organized by Erica Brindley and Kathlene Baldanza).

Co-editor, Heng Xian and Early Chinese Philosophy. Special volume and “Introduction” in Dao 12.2 (June 2013). Based on the proceedings of the workshop, “Reading and Understanding the Heng xian,” Penn State University, November 12-14, 2010. (Organized by Erica Brindley).

“Authoring Non-Action in Early China,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy, special volume by Tim Connolly, ed., Action Theory in Chinese Philosophy, December 2014, forthcoming, late 2015.

“Spontaneous Arising: Creative Change in the Hengxian,” Journal of Daoist Religions 9 (2016): 1-17.

“The Cosmos as Creative Mind: Spontaneous Arising, Generating, and Creating in the Heng xian,” Dao, special volume on Heng xian and Early Chinese Philosophy, 12.2 (June 2013).

“Moral Autonomy and Particularistic Sources of Authority in the Analects,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38.2 (June, 2011): 257-273.

Awards and Service:

American Council of Learned Societies/Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, “Comparative Perspectives on Chinese Culture and Society”  conference grant, 2019.

Tang Center for Early China,  workshop grant,  2018.

Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers, 2013-2016.

International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS) Book Award for Music, Cosmology, and the Politics of Harmony: “Reading Committee Accolade: Specialist Publication in the Humanities,” 2013.

American Council of Learned Societies/Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, "Comparative Perspectives on Chinese Culture and Society" Conference Grant (2013)

Editorial Board Member: Early China (2010 - 2013)Steering Committee Member, American Academy of Religion, Confucian Study Group (2008 - 2012)

American Council of Learned Societies, Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship, (2011 - 2012)

Grant, American Council of Learned Societies/Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation (2010)

Recent Courses:

ASIA197A - Introduction to the Religions of the East
ASIA197B - Introduction to Buddhism
HIST483 - Chinese Society and Culture to 1800
HIST484 - History of Chinese Thought

Research Interests:

Ethnicity, cross-cultural interactions, frontier history; empire-building and colonial interventions; concepts of the self and body; concepts of creativity, moral psychology, and autonomy

Areas of Specialization:

East Asia: