John Chen
John Chen

John Chen is a PhD candidate (ABD) in International and Global History. He is interested thematically in global histories of Islam, science, and the circulation and transformation of knowledge, and regionally in modern China and the modern Middle East. His dissertation, “Making Islam Chinese: Chinese Muslim Elites, Nation-Building, and the Limits of Islamic Reform, 1900-1960,” examines how Chinese Muslims’ role in governing China’s frontiers and other Guomindang state projects fueled the conscious articulation of their community’s modern identity, yet also shows how that process coexisted with and even relied on transnational forms of Islamic knowledge and experience not centered in China. His two years of dissertation research, primarily in mainland China, have been supported by Fulbright-Hays, Columbia GSAS International Traveling, Columbia Weatherhead, and Columbia Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life fellowships.

John’s work has been published by Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East(CSSAAME, Spring 2014), the Middle East Institute’s Middle East-Asia Project (MAP, March 2015), and the Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia(SOJOURN, November 2016). For details, please see

Prior to entering Columbia, John worked as a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, focused on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Before that, he lived for over a year in Cairo, where he completed a full-year fellowship at the American University in Cairo’s Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) with the support of a Fulbright student grant, and received additional training in written and simultaneous translation with the support of a Critical Language Enhancement Award (CLEA).

A native of Massachusetts, John earned his BA from Harvard University (2008), specializing in history and Arabic. In his regular life, he enjoys classical music, cooking, and recreational boxing.

Curated Symposia