This site is no longer being updated; please refer to my new site.


I am a historian of twentieth-century China and Inner Asia, with a research focus on national culture and national literature in the socialist periphery. In particular, I study the cultural history of the transborder Uyghur nation, whose formation was closely intertwined with history’s two largest socialist states.

Having completed my PhD at Harvard University in May 2019, I am currently a Link-Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow at the Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and a lecturer in Princeton’s Department of East Asian Studies. My book manuscript, The Poetry of Power: Uyghur National Culture in Twentieth-Century China, connects China to cultural trends in the Islamic world and the broader socialist zeitgeist, and demonstrates that socialist policies, implemented in China’s northwest borderlands beginning in the 1930s, enabled the small Sino-Soviet frontier community of Ili to transform its local culture into the new Uyghur national culture.

My work as a cultural historian is informed and inspired by the seven years I spent living in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In addition to working there as a translator, I completed a master’s degree in Uyghur literature at Xinjiang Normal University with a thesis on Uyghur modernist poetry.

When I'm not working on cultural history, I moonlight as a poetry translator. I am also translating Uyghur poet Tahir Hamut Izgil's memoir Waiting to Be Arrested at Night, to be published in 2023 by Penguin Press (US) and Jonathan Cape (UK).

PhD Dissertation: "Print and Power in the Communist Borderlands: The Rise of Uyghur National Culture"

MA Thesis: "ئۇيغۇر گۇڭگا شېئىرىيىتىنىڭ كېلىپ چىقىشى، تەرەققىياتى ۋە ئىككى يۆنىلىشى"

email: jlfreeman at princeton dot edu

Twitter: jlfreeman6