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


PhD, University of California, Irvine, 2009
BA, Yale University, 1999


Kate Merkel-Hess is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of History at Penn State. She is a historian of modern China with research interests in elite politics, social movements, transnational exchange, and mass media.

Her current book project, Women and Their Warlords: Elite Women and Political Power in Modern China, examines the role of leading political wives in shaping Chinese political culture between the 1910s and 1950s. Merkel-Hess is also the author of The Rural Modern: Reconstructing the Self and State in Republican China (University of Chicago Press, 2016) and co-editor (with Kenneth Pomeranz and Jeffrey Wasserstrom) of China in 2008: A Year of Great Significance (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009).

Merkel-Hess’s articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in a number of publications, including The Times Literary Supplement, Journal of Social History, Twentieth-Century China, History Compass, Current History, ChinaFile, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. Merkel-Hess’s research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Association for Asian Studies, and the U.S. Department of Education.

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.

Co-authored with Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, “The Tiananmen Protests and Their Aftermath, 1989-1999,” in The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

“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.

“Reading the Rural Modern: Literacy and Morality in Republican China,” History Compass 7, no. 1 (2009): 44-54.

Awards and Service:

Associate Editor, Journal of Asian Studies, 2018-2020

National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2017-18

National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, 2016

Mellon/ACLS Recent Doctoral Recipients Fellowship, 2009-2010

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2008-2009

Recent Courses:

HIST 011 – World History, 1500-Present

HIST 183 – Gender, Family, and Society in East Asia

HIST 184 – The Pacific War

HIST 302W – Undergraduate Seminar HIST 486 – Twentieth-Century China HIST 581 – Late Imperial and Modern China

HIST 582 – Women and Gender in Modern Chinese History

HIST 583 – Rebellion, Revolution, and Nation in China


Areas of Specialization: