Department of History

Carla Nappi

  • Andrew W. Mellon Chair


History of China
History of Central Eurasia (especially Manchu studies)
Translation History
World History
Historical Writing and Theory

Education & Training

  • Ph.D. Princeton, 2006

Representative Publications

“Metamorphoses: Fictioning and the Historian’s Craft,” PMLA 133.1 (2018): 160-165.

“Paying Attention: Early Modern Science Beyond Genealogy,” Journal of Early Modern History 21 (2017): 459-470.

“The Gesture of Photographing” (with Dominic Pettman), thresholds 1 (2017).

“A Page at the Orchestra.” In Wendy Doniger, Peter Galison, and Susan Neiman, eds., What Reason Promises: Essays on Reason, Nature and History (De Gruyter, 2016), 221-227.

“Surface Tension: Objectifying Ginseng in Chinese Early Modernity.” In Paula Findlen, ed., Early Modern Things: Objects and their Histories, 1500-1800 (Routledge, 2013): 31-52.

“Disengaging from ‘Asia’.” East Asian Science, Technology, and Society 6.2 (2012): 1-4.

The Monkey and the Inkpot: Natural History and Its Transformations in Early Modern China (Harvard University Press, 2009).


Research Interests

I’m trained as a historian of China, and I specialize in the early modern histories of science and health, and of translation, working primarily (but not exclusively) with Manchu- and Chinese-language documents. In this phase of my research life I’m doing my best to inhabit my scholarly academic life as a kind of art practice.

I am currently in the final stages of a handful of projects: an academic book monograph on translation in early modern China, a collaborative reimagining of Plato’s Symposium using poetry that centers the voices of women (with Carrie Jenkins), and a book of short fiction inspired by Vilém Flusser’s theory of gesture (with Dominic Pettman). During the 2018-2019 academic year, I’ll be focusing on a new project that brings together the crafts of history, translation, and DJ’ing. To learn more about my research and for updates, see my personal website at

I encourage students to be in touch with me via email if they’re (if you’re) interested in working together. The ecological role that I tend to occupy as a supervisor and committee-member for graduate students usually takes one of three forms: (1) as a supervisor if we share common enough research interests in early modern Chinese or Manchu things, especially natural history or health or translation-related things; (2) as a committee member bringing a deep interest in historical method/theory, world history, or something-STS-related to the party; or (3) as a committee member engaged in experimental academic humanities work beyond the traditional dissertation format.