Eric Schluessel, Assistant Professor of History and International Affairs, was named the winner of the John K. Fairbank Prize in East Asian history since 1800 for his recently released book Land of Strangers: The Civilizing Project in Qing Central Asia. The John K. Fairbank Prize is offered annually by the American Historical Association for an outstanding book in the history of China proper, Vietnam, Chinese Central Asia, Mongolia, Manchuria, Korea, or Japan.
In his work, Schluessel explores the encounter between Chinese power and a Muslim society through the struggles of ordinary people in the oasis of Turpan by revealing the human consequences of a bloody conflict and the more insidious violence of reconstruction. He traces the emergence of new struggles around essential questions of identity, showing how religious and linguistic differences converged into ethnic labels. Reading across local archives and manuscript accounts in the Chinese and Chaghatay languages, he recasts the attempted transformation of Xinjiang as a distinctly Chinese form of colonialism.
The prize honors the memory of the late John K. Fairbank, Francis Lee Higginson Professor of History and director of the East Asian Research Center at Harvard University, and president of the Association in 1968.