Assistant Professor of History
Maura Dykstra is a historian of Late Imperial China, with an emphasis on bureaucratic, economic, and legal institutions of empire and their implications for political and social interactions in quotidian contexts. She is interested in how people are governed and how policy decisions—no matter how well-considered and seemingly straightforward—produce unexpected consequences.
Prior to joining the Caltech faculty in 2016, Dykstra earned her PhD from UCLA and spent a year as an An Wang postdoctoral fellow at Harvard's Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. She has held residential fellowships and visiting positions at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, the Taiwan National Library's Center for Chinese Studies, the Tokyo University Graduate School of Law and Politics, East China Normal University, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.
Her first book, Uncertainty in the Empire of Routine: The Unexpected Administrative Revolution of the Eighteenth-century Qing State, is scheduled to be released by Harvard University Asia Center Press in the summer of 2022. She is currently working on a second monograph project that traces the rise and fall of the Ming Empire in the southwest.
In addition to her work advising several history theses on a variety of topics and running the History Thesis Group for writers of theses in the humanities, she was a member of the group responsible for creating the Critical Intersections: Conversations on History, Race, and Science seminar series in the fall of 2020. In the course of this series, which featured multiple events co-organized with Professor of English Jennifer Jahner, Research Professor of Art and Design Hillary Mushkin, and University Archivist Peter Collopy, both guests and members of the Caltech community explored interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the history and legacy of eugenics.
- 2021 Dr. Fred Shair Programming Diversity Award
- 2019 Associated Students of Caltech (ASCIT) Teaching Award
- Critical Intersections: Conversations on History, Race, and Science Seminar Series
- History Thesis Group
- History Seminar Series
- Social Science History Group
Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals
- "Growing up before the Rebellion: Merchant Organization and Local Administration in Chongqing," slated for publication in Late Imperial China in the spring of 2022.
- "A Crisis of Competence: Information, Corruption, and Knowledge about the Decline of the Qing State," Journal for the History of Knowledge 1 (1), Article 15 (2021): 1-14. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/jhk.11
- "Cross-Jurisdictional Trade and Contract Enforcement in Qing China," International Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 16-2 (July 2019): 99-115. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/s1479591419000123
- "Beyond the Shadow of the Law: Firm Insolvency, State-building, and the New Policy Bankruptcy Reform in Late Qing Chongqing," Frontiers of History in China Vol. 8, no. 3 (September, 2013): 406-432. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3868/s020-002-013-0028-8
Chapters in Edited Volumes
- "Liability, Fraud, Litigation, and Everyday Injustice in the Hu Wan Chang Remittance House Bankruptcy," in Pierre-Etienne Will, ed. La Justice au Quotidien, forthcoming.
- "Did China Have a Fin-de-Siècle?" with Jeffrey Wasserstrom in Michael Saler, ed. The Fin-de-Siècle World, London: Routledge, 2014.
- "帝国、知縣、商人以及連繫彼此的紐帶：清代重庆的商业诉讼" [Empire, Magistrates, Merchants, and the Ties that Bind: Commercial Litigation in Late Imperial Chongqing] in Wang Xi, ed.中国和世界历史中的重庆——重庆史研究国际会议 (2012) 论文选编 [Chongqing in Historical China and the World: Selected Papers from the 2012 International Conference on Chongqing History], Chongqing: Chongqing daxue chubanshe, 2013, pp. 166-180.
- Uncertainty in the Empire of Routine: The Unexpected Administrative Revolution of the Eighteenth Century Qing State, Harvard University Asia Center Press, forthcoming summer 2022.