Mara Du’s research centers on the history of modern China (17th century – present), particularly on law, gender, and state-building. Her first monograph, State and Family in China: Filial Piety and Its Modern Reform (Cambridge University Press, 2022), studies the intersection of politics and intergenerational family relations in China, with particular focus on law. It treats state-sponsored parent-child hierarchy as the axis around which Chinese family and political power relations were constructed and maintained in imperial times, and it examines reform of filial piety law as a key to understanding the trajectory China undertook in the twentieth century. Bringing generational order back to the heart of scholarly discussion of state and family relationship in China, this book nonetheless highlights the intertwining of gender and filial piety in the state’s instrumentalization of family relations for its legitimation and governance. In addition to engaging those who are interested in Chinese history and politics, this book provides insights to readers who work on family law, gender, or state building from a comparative perspective.
Mara is conducting research on her second book-length project, tentatively titled China: From a Nationless State to a Nation Defined by State. This book explores how China and Chinese nationalism have been shaped by the multifaceted concept guo, which meant a dynastic state in classical Chinese but which came to be used to represent the modern nation state. She is also collecting materials for her third major project, Twice a Stranger: China, the United States, and Trans-Pacific Intellectuals, which tells the story of two countries through the life experiences of six transnational figures.
“Unlimited Debt toward Father and Mother: Engendering State-Sponsored Generational Hierarchies in Late Imperial China,” Asia Major, 34.2 (2021), pp.93-125.
“From Dynastic State to Imperial Nation: International Law, Diplomacy, and Conceptual Decentralization of China, 1860s-1900s,” Late Imperial China, 42.1 (2021), pp.177-220.
“Bringing Chinese Law in Line with Western Standards? Problematizing ‘Chinese’ and ‘Western’ in the Late Qing Debate over the New Criminal Code,” Frontiers of History in China, 16.1 (2021), pp.39-72.
“Policies and Counterstrategies: State-Sponsored Filiality and False Accusation in Qing China,” International Journal of Asian Studies, 16.2 (2019), pp.79-97.
“Reforming Social Customs through Law: Dynamics and Discrepancies in the Nationalist Reform of the Adoptive Daughter-in-Law,” NAN NÜ: Men, Women and Gender in China 21.1 (2019), pp.76-106.
“Sun Yat-sen as Guofu: Competition over Nationalist Party Orthodoxy in the Second Sino-Japanese War,” Modern China 45.2 (2019), pp.201-235.
“Concubinage and Motherhood in Qing China (1644-1911): Ritual, Law, and Custodial Rights of Property,” Journal of Family History 42.2 (2017), pp.162-183.
“Legal Justice in Eighteenth-Century Mongolia: Gender, Ethnicity, and Politics in the Manchu-Mongol Marriage Alliance,” Late Imperial China 37.2 (2016), pp.1-40.