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. In particular, my work examines the relationship between personal networks, political patronage, and literary canon in 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 to the broader socialist zeitgeist, and demonstrates that socialist policies, implemented in China’s northwestern borderlands from the 1930s, enabled the small Sino-Soviet frontier community of Ili to transform its local culture into the new Uyghur national culture.

As a firm believer in bringing our work beyond the academy, I have written public-facing scholarship for The New York Review of BooksThe New York Times, and The Times Literary Supplement, and have translated Uyghur poetry for The AtlanticThe Guardian, and numerous literary journals. My translation of Uyghur poet Tahir Hamut Izgil’s memoir, Waiting to Be Arrested at Night (Penguin Press), received the National Book Critics Circle’s 2023 John Leonard Prize for Best First Book.

Email: jfreeman (at)

Twitter: jlfreeman6

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