My research is animated by questions of international order, language and power politics with an area focus on China, Inner Asia and East Asia using multilingual archival research.


“Tibet Lost in Translation: Sovereignty, Suzerainty and International Order Transformation, 1904-1906.” Journal of Contemporary China. (2017)

“How Does an International System Change? Language-games and the Mechanics of International Order Transformation in the Long Nineteenth Century,” revise and resubmit.

* Winner of the Barbara W. Tuchman Prize for Best Paper in Historical International Relations by a Graduate Student at the 2017 International Studies Association Annual Meeting.

“International Order, Language-games and the Emergence of Chinese Sovereignty Claims in the South China Sea, 1909-1947,” STANCE Working Paper Series, Department of Political Science, Lund University, May 2018.

“Tibet’s Incorporation into China: Contrasting Historical Narratives and the PRC’s Ontological Security” STANCE Working Paper Series, Department of Political Science, Lund University, May 2019.

Ph.D. Thesis

Tibet Lost in Translation: Power Politics, Language and the Mechanics of International Order Transformation Between the Sinosphere and Westphalia 1890-1937.  Cornell University, 2017.

Abstract: How did Tibet become part of the modern Chinese state and how did China come to control nearly all the territorial holdings of its imperial predecessors? This dissertation examines China’s transition from empire to nation-state as an illustrative case of how individual states experience transformation in the nature of international order. While conventional scholarship has focused on the structural conditions that give rise to such changes, this research provides a precise account of how exactly states from a previous international order are reconfigured to constitute a new system. My analysis assumes that there are no predestined connections between norms and institutions of different international systems. From this perspective, I contend that the status of an individual state is a function of the discourse, words and linguistic codes used to establish connections between its former status and the new international order. The most important asset for states is knowledge of the rules of the ascendant order. This knowledge gives them greater control over the way that they are rendered legible in the new system, which, in turn, determines whether they will survive as an independent state or be subordinated by another nation. These conclusions are drawn from investigation of Anglo-Chinese-Tibetan relations during the transition from East Asia’s historical, hierarchic Sinocentric world order to the contemporary global Westphalian state system using fine-grained, multilingual, textual analysis of archival records collected during 15 months of fieldwork in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China (Taiwan), India and the UK. My findings demonstrate the agency of individual actors within structural change and the extent to which command of discourse can empower weak actors to punch above their weight.

Select Invited Talks and Presentations

“Manipulating Diplomatic Success and Failure at the Simla Convention, 1913-1914,” Princeton University, Invited Presentation for Young Scholars Workshop on China’s Quest for Sovereignty: International Law in China in a Historical Perspective, May 29, 2018. Oxford University, Invited Presentation for workshop on The Effect on Inner- and East Asian Relations of the Advent of Modern International Law and the End of the Qing Empire in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, September 25-26, 2017.

“Controlling the Narrative and International Order in the South China Sea,” Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Invited Lecture, March 2, 2018.

“Diplomatic (Mis)translation and Empire: Misreadings and Manipulation in Sino-British Dealings with Tibet,” Columbia University, Invited Lecture sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and Modern Tibetan Studies Program, February 2, 2016.