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Soldiers and Pirates on China's Southeast Coast: Institutions and Everyday Politics in the Ming


Members of hereditary military households Uunhu) garrisoned on China's southeast coast in the Ming dynasty frequently engaged in illegal overseas trade and piracy, the very activities they were supposed to suppress. Studying the institutional imperatives of the Ming military system can help us to resolve this seeming paradox. State institutions were not merely a response to illegal activities; the two were actually mutually constitutive of one another. Relying on several case studies of family strategies pursued by hereditary military households in the Ming, this presentation will argue for a new understanding of the pre-modern Chinese state.


Professor Szonyi is currently Professor of Chinese History and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University. He is also the Chair of Committee on Regional Studies (East Asia) and a member of the Executive Committee of Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. Professor Szonyi received his BA from the University of Toronto and his D.Phil. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. His main research interests are the local history of southeast China, especially in the Ming Dynasty; the history of Chinese popular religion, and overseas Chinese history. His main academic publications include Cold War Island: Quemoy on the Front Line (Cambridge University Press, 2008) and Practicing Kinship: Lineage and Descent in Late I1nperial China (Stanford University, 2002).

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