Eugenia Y. Lean

Eugenia Y. Lean

Research Interest

Eugenia Lean has been on the faculty since 2002 and previously served as Director of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and co-director of the Heyman Center for the Humanities Seminar. She has also been a long-serving board member of the Society of Fellows at the Heyman Center.

She received her BA from Stanford University (1990), and her MA (1996) and PhD (2001) from UCLA. She is a historian of modern China, with a focus on the history of science and industry, mass media, consumer culture, and urban society.

Professor Lean is the author of Public Passions: the Trial of Shi Jianqiao and the Rise of Popular Sympathy in Republican China (UC Press, 2007), which was awarded the 2007 John K. Fairbank prize for the best book in modern East Asian history, given by the American Historical Association.

Her second book, Vernacular Industrialism in China: Local Innovation and Translated Technologies in the Making of a Cosmetics Empire, 1900-1940 (Columbia University Press, 2020), examines the manufacturing, commercial and cultural activities of maverick industrialist Chen Diexian (1879-1940). It illustrates how lettered men of early twentieth century China engaged in “vernacular industrialism,” the pursuit of industry and science outside of conventional venues that drew on the process of experimentation with both local and global practices of manufacturing and was marked by heterogeneous forms of knowledge. A third book project focuses on China’s involvement in shaping twentieth-century global regimes of intellectual property rights from trademark infringement to patenting science. It investigates the local vibrant cultures of copying and authenticating in China, as well as enquires into how China emerged as the “quintessential copycat” in the modern world.

Professor Learn has received numerous awards for her research. She has been awarded multiple grants from the American Council for Learned Societies and was a Fulbright Scholar. She was featured in “Top Young Historians,” History News Network (fall 2008) and received an Institute for Advanced Studies fellowship and a National Endowment of the Humanities fellowship in 2017-2018. She is also a committed teacher and received the 2013-2014 Faculty Mentoring Award for faculty in Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.