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Chair and W. Van Alan Clark '41 Third Century Professor in the Social Sciences, Williams College, Williams College

Since 1989 I have taught a variety of courses on China and East Asia at Williams College. Trained as a specialist in contemporary Chinese politics, I have moved, in the past twelve years or so, toward ancient Chinese philosophy. That shift was initially inspired by my son, Aidan, who was profoundly disabled. In struggling to find meaning in our lives, I turned to Daoism and wrote a book, Aidan's Way, which drew on Daoist ideas to reflect upon disability. Afterward, I kept reading in classical Chinese philosophy and applied ideas from that reading to a wider range of social and ethical issues. Ultimately, a book emerged from that work: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Dao: Ancient Chinese Thought in Modern American Life (Wiley, 2013).

I keep up with Chinese politics and continue to dwell in the classic texts: The Analects, Mencius, Daodejing, Zhuangzi, Han Feizi, Mozi, and others. At present I am working on a new book that will consider how ancient Chinese thought might apply, or not, to modern Chinese society.


  • 1989–present
    Professor, Williams College


  • 1986 
    University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ph.D. Political Science