Elisabeth Kaske-Modern Languages - Carnegie Mellon University

Elisabeth Kaske

Associate Professor of Chinese Studies

Department of Modern Languages
Carnegie Mellon University
Baker Hall 160
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Office: BH 369
Phone: (412) 268-1971
Fax: (412) 268-1328
Department Member Since: 2010


In my research, I focus on the historical study of late nineteenth and early twentieth century China, covering various disciplines including military history, language policies and sociolinguistics, as well as social and fiscal studies. My main interest concerns the question of how societies open up to or resist social change, and why regimes crumble or maintain stability. In an age of frequent externally or internally induced regime change, this is an important question with far-reaching implications for our modern day. In my book on language policies, I tried to abandon the usual narrative of language reform as the inevitable path towards progress, and explored resistance to language reform that could have led to alternative paths of development. My current project has led me to explore how the legal sale of public office by the state contributed to the restoration and maintenance of regime stability after the Taiping Rebellion, but at the same time helped to prevent thorough fiscal reforms.


Ph. D., Heidelberg University, 2006

Recent Work


The Politics of Language in Chinese Education, 1895–1919. Leiden: Brill, 2008, 573 pp.

Bismarcks Missionäre: Deutsche Militärinstrukteure in China 1884–1890(Bismarck’s Missionaries: German Military Instructors in China, 1884–1890). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2002, 293 pp.

Book Project: Deploying Symbolic Capital: The Political Economy of Office Selling in Late Qing China


“Metropolitan Clerks and Venality in Qing China: The Great 1830 Forgery Case,” T’oung-pao 98:1 (2012), 217-269.

“Fund-Raising Wars: Office Selling and Interprovincial Finance in Nineteenth Century China,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 71.1 (June 2011), 69–141.

“The Price of an Office: Venality, the Individual and the State in 19th Century China,” in Metals, Monies, and Markets in Early Modern Societies: East Asian and Global Perspectives, ed. by Nanny Kim and Thomas Hirzel. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2008, 279–304.

“Wan Qing zai Hua de Deguo jiaoguan gaikuang 晚清在华的德国教官概况” (German military instructors in late Qing China), Beida Shixue 北大史学 13 (2008), 303–348.

Courses Taught

  • China’s Imperial Tradition (82-333 Introduction to Chinese Language and Culture)
  • Modern Chinese Culture (82-333 Introduction to Chinese Language and Culture)
  • Local Culture in China (82-440 Studies in Chinese Literature & Culture)
  • The Rise of Power: Chinese Society and Officialdom Literature (82-440 Studies in Chinese Literature & Culture)