Joshua L. Freeman is a historian of twentieth-century China and Inner Asia. His research centers around official culture and nation formation in China's northwestern borderlands, and in particular the cultural history of the transborder Uyghur nation. He received his Ph.D. in Inner Asian and Altaic Studies at Harvard University in 2019, where his research received support from the Social Science Research Council, Fulbright-IIE, and multiple centers at Harvard.
On the basis of his dissertation, he is currently at work on a book manuscript titled “Print Communism: Uyghur National Culture in Twentieth-Century China.” Drawing on cultural, literary, and political history, this study demonstrates that socialist policies, implemented in northwest China's Xinjiang region from the 1930s through the late twentieth century, enabled the small Sino-Soviet frontier community of Ili to transform its local culture into the new Uyghur national culture. Examining this process offers insight into the nexus between socialism and nation formation at the intersection of the Chinese, Soviet, and Islamic worlds.
Freeman’s work as a cultural historian is informed and inspired by the seven years he spent living in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In addition to working extensively there as a translator, he completed a master’s degree in Uyghur literature at Xinjiang Normal University with a thesis on Uyghur modernist poetry, which he composed and defended in Uyghur. He has translated the work of a number of Uyghur poets into English, and his writing on the ongoing Xinjiang crisis has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and elsewhere.
At Princeton, Freeman teaches Chinese and Inner Asian history in the Department of East Asian Studies. In the last two years, his courses have ranged from a survey of modern Chinese history to a seminar on Uyghur history from ancient times to the present. In spring 2022, he will be teaching a course on everyday life in Mao's China.