Elizabeth J. Perry
Other names裴宜理
EducationWilliam Smith College (BA), University of Michigan (PhD)
OccupationPolitical scientist
EmployerHarvard University
Organization(s)Association for Asian Studies, American Political Science Association
AwardsGuggenheim Fellowship, John K. Fairbank Prize

Elizabeth J. Perry, FBA (Chinese: 裴宜理; pinyin: Péi Yílǐ; born 9 September 1948) is an American political scientist specialized in Chinese politics and history. She currently is the Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government at Harvard University and Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,[1] a corresponding fellow of the British Academy,[2] a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship,[3] and served as Director of Harvard's Fairbank Center for East Asian Research from 1999 to 2003 and as president of the Association for Asian Studies in 2007.

Life and career

Perry was born in Shanghai, shortly before the Chinese Communist Revolution, to American missionary parents who were professors at St. John's University. She grew up in Tokyo, Japan in the 1950s and participated in the 1960 Anpo protests against the US-Japan Security Treaty.[4]

She returned to the United States and attended William Smith College, where she earned her B.A. summa cum laude in 1969.[5] In 1978, she received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan where her dissertation committee included Michel Oksenberg, Norma Diamond, Albert Feuerwerker, and Allen Whiting.[6] Her doctoral thesis explored the tradition of peasant rebellions of the Huaibei region of northern China and the Communist Revolution.[7]

Perry took her first teaching job at the University of Arizona before becoming an assistant, then associate professor at the University of Washington (1978-1990); she then taught at the University of California, Berkeley as Robson Professor of Political Science, 1990-1997 before moving to Harvard.[8]

When China and the US resumed academic exchange in 1979, she spent a year at Nanjing University as a visiting scholar, researching Chinese secret societies under Cai Shaoqing and the Taiping Rebellion under Mao Jiaqi [zh].[7]

In 2007, Perry was named director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute, effective July 1, 2008.[9] In January 2024, James Robson was announced as her successor.[10]

Scholarship and views

Perry's research focuses on the history of the Chinese Communist Revolution and its implications for contemporary politics. Although she earned all her degrees in political science, much of her research focuses on history and its links to contemporary issues. She observes that contemporary China consciously sees itself as an outgrowth of its long history, and Chinese political leaders are keenly aware of history, even if they may misunderstand it. As a result, history is highly consequential in the study of contemporary politics.[4]

She had been sympathetic with the Cultural Revolution as a student, and joined the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars, a group that opposed American involvement in the Vietnam War. After witnessing the inequality in Communist China and hearing people's personal accounts about their suffering during the period, her views on the Chinese Communist Revolution and Maoism changed fundamentally.[4]


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Her book, Shanghai on Strike: the Politics of Chinese Labor (1993) won the John K. Fairbank Prize from the American Historical Association. Her article "From Mencius to Mao – and Now: Chinese Conceptions of Socioeconomic Rights" (2008) won the Heinz Eulau Prize from the American Political Science Association. Perry received honorary doctorate degrees from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The Asian Studies Library at her undergraduate alma mater has been named in her honor. She also holds honorary professorships at eight major Chinese universities.


Selected books

Selected articles


  1. ^ "Elizabeth J. Perry". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 21 December 2019.
  2. ^ "Professor Elizabeth Perry FBA". British Academy. Retrieved 21 December 2019.
  3. ^ "Elizabeth J. Perry". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 21 December 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Perry, Elizabeth J.; Lu, Hanchao (2015). "Narrating the Past to Interpret the Present: A Conversation with Elizabeth J. Perry". The Chinese Historical Review. 22 (2): 160–173. doi:10.1179/1547402X15Z.00000000051. ISSN 1547-402X. S2CID 146800044.
  5. ^ "HWS: Alumni/ae Publications". Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  6. ^ Perry (1980), p. x.
  7. ^ a b Elizabeth J. Perry (Pei Yili) (2016-10-24). "我的老师蔡少卿,一位中国顶尖的社会史学家" [My teacher Cai Shaoqing, a top Chinese scholar of social history]. The Paper. Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  8. ^ Harvard University (2020).
  9. ^ harvardgazette (2007-10-11). "Elizabeth J. Perry named director of Harvard-Yenching Institute". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 2024-01-29.
  10. ^ "Announcement of the New Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute". Harvard-Yenching Institute. Retrieved 2024-01-29.