Johanna S. Ransmeier (任思梅) is a social and legal historian of modern China. She is currently an Associate Professor of History at the University of Chicago where she also serves on the faculty board of the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights. Her current research investigates the expansion of legal literacy and the development of a Chinese legal imagination during times of revolutionary change. In this project, she asks what happens when citizens’ legitimate expectations of the law get ahead of the ability of legal institutions to deliver on the promise of new legislation or legal innovations. What makes the law a site of both soaring aspiration and crushing disappointment? She also studies the surprising ways crime and the law intersect with family life. Her first book, Sold People: Traffickers and Family Life in North China (Harvard University Press, 2017), exposed the transactional foundations of traditional family structures and the role of human trafficking in late Qing and Republican China. Ransmeier received her doctorate in Chinese History from Yale University and is a graduate of Amherst College. She was a fellow with the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations Public Intellectuals Program and a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica in Taiwan.

Last Updated: March 2, 2022



Remembering Jonathan Spence

Pamela Kyle Crossley, Sherman Cochran & more
A few weeks after Jonathan Spence, the celebrated historian of China, died at Christmas, ChinaFile began collecting reminiscences from his classmates, doctoral students, and colleagues spanning the five decades of his extraordinary career as a...