Joshua L. Freeman

I am an assistant research fellow at the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica. As a cultural historian of twentieth-century China and a specialist in Uyghur literature, I explore the interactions of socialist policy and national culture across borders and administrations. My focus is the transborder Uyghur nation, whose formation was closely intertwined with history’s two largest socialist states.

Before arriving in Taiwan in 2022, I spent three years as a fellow at the Princeton Society of Fellows and as a lecturer in Princeton’s Department of East Asian Studies. I completed my PhD at Harvard University in 2019. Prior to my doctoral studies, I lived for seven years in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, an experience that deeply informs my research. In addition to working there as a translator, I earned a master’s degree in Uyghur literature at Xinjiang Normal University with a thesis on avant-garde Uyghur poetry.
My book manuscript, The Poetry of Power: Uyghur National Culture in Twentieth-Century China, connects China to cultural trends in the Islamic world and the broader socialist zeitgeist, and demonstrates that socialist policies, implemented in China’s northwest borderlands from the 1930s, enabled the small Sino-Soviet frontier community of Ili to transform its local culture into the new Uyghur national culture.

When not working on cultural history and literary studies, I moonlight as a poetry translator, with work in The AtlanticThe Guardian, and numerous literary journals. I am also a firm believer in bringing our research beyond the academy; my public-facing scholarship has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, and The New York Times. My translation of Uyghur poet Tahir Hamut Izgil's memoir Waiting to Be Arrested at Night has been published by Penguin Press (US) and Jonathan Cape (UK).

Email: jfreeman (at)

Twitter: jlfreeman6

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