Joseph Dennis' research focuses on the history of Chinese print culture, law, and society. He is a past president of the Society for Ming Studies, former director of the University of Wisconsin Center for East Asian Studies, and is active in the Wisconsin China Initiative. Prior to coming to Wisconsin in 2010, he taught at Davidson College and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University after receiving his doctorate from the University of Minnesota.
Dennis has spent many years studying Chinese local gazetteers, one of the most important sources for pre-modern Chinese studies. In his book, Writing, Publishing, and Reading Local Gazetteers in Imperial China, 1100–1700 (Harvard, 2015), Dennis examines how gazetteers were read, and illustrates the significance of these texts in local societies and in discourses that were national in scope. In analyzing how gazetteers were initiated and produced, he examines the geography of imperial Chinese publishing, tracks the movements of manuscripts to printers and print labor to production sites, and reconstructs printer business zones. He also presents a substantial data set on Ming publishing costs and identifies regional publishing centers.
Dennis’ current projects are on the history of Chinese legal education and school libraries. In 2017, he was a residential fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities, working on a book about songs to encourage the cessation of litigation 息訟歌. Prior to becoming an historian, Dennis was a practicing attorney for over a decade.
Dennis, J. (2020). The Role of Donations in Building Local School Book Collections in the Ming Dynasty. Ming-Qing-yanjiu, 24(1), 46-66. doi:10.1163/24684791-12340042.Read More
Dennis, J. (2017). Chinese school libraries book collections database project. In Chinese local chronicles culture going global international symposium on local chronicles culture / 走向世界的中国方志文化国际学术研讨会论文汇编 (pp. 25-57). Beijing: The Office of Chinese…Read More
Presentations, Talks, & Teaching Activities
Institute for Research in the Humanities, Madison, Wisconsin
Nankai University, Tianjin, China
Local Gazetteers Leadership Small Group, Beijing, China
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany
Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, University of Hamburg, Germany