Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Kate Merkel-Hess

Kate Merkel-Hess

Director of Graduate Studies
Associate Professor of History

316 Weaver Building

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: (814) 865-0750

Curriculum Vitae:


PhD, University of California, Irvine, 2009
BA, Yale University, 1999
Kate Merkel-Hess Headshot



I am a historian of modern China with a specialization in the early twentieth century. Currently, I am completing a manuscript, titled Women and Their Warlords: Gender and Power in Modern China, which examines the gender politics of the Chinese militarists – and their powerful female relatives – who governed China from 1911 to 1949, and whose influence and memory have resonated to today. My first book, The Rural Modern: Reconstructing the Self and State in Republican China (University of Chicago Press, 2016), explores the way that the prominent strain of 1930s thought on rural modernity and “rural reconstruction” contested the dominant model of urban development – and how both elites and peasants reconceptualized their social and political identities in order to “reconstruct” their local and national communities. I am also the co-editor of the volume China in 2008: A Year of Great Significance (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), a book that grew from The China Beat, a group blog I edited from 2007 to 2010. My articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in a number of publications, including The Times Literary Supplement, Journal of Social History, Twentieth-Century China, History CompassCurrent History, ChinaFile, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Recent Publications:

“A New Woman and Her Warlord: Li Dequan, Feng Yuxiang, and the Politics of Intimacy in Twentieth Century China,” Frontiers of History in China 11.3 (2016): 431-457.

The Rural Modern: Reconstructing the Self and State in Republican China (University of Chicago Press, 2016).

“The Public Health of Village Private Life: Reform and Resistance in Early Twentieth Century China,” Journal of Social History 49.4 (Summer 2016): 881-903.

“Acting Out Reform: Theater and Village in the Republican Rural Reconstruction Movement.” Twentieth-Century China 37.2 (May 2012): 161-180.

Co-editor with Kenneth L. Pomeranz and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom. China in 2008: A Year of Great Significance. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.

Awards and Service:

NEH Fellowship, 2017-18

NEH Summer Stipend, 2016

Recent Doctoral Recipients Fellowship, Mellon/ACLS (2009-2010)

Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Mellon/ACLS (2008-2009)

Recent Courses:

HIST011 – World History II
HIST184 – The Pacific War
HIST486 – Twentieth-Century China
HIST581 – Late Imperial and Modern China


Areas of Specialization: