Zhao Ma

​Associate Professor of Modern Chinese History and Culture
Director of Undergraduate Study
PhD, Johns Hopkins University
MA, Johns Hopkins University
MA, People's University of China
research interests:
  • Chinese modern history
  • Urban culture
  • Women's studies
  • Film
  • Politics
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    contact info:

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • CB 1111
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    ​Zhao Ma teaches courses on 20th-century Chinese history, city and women, crime and punishment, material culture, historical landscape, socialist culture, and the history of US-China relations. His current book project examines rumor-mongering in Beijing during the Korean War period.

    Courses Taught

    • L48 3056 Material Culture in Modern China
    • L22 316C Modern China: 1980s to the Present
    • L22 3161 Chinese Social History: Urban Transformations
    • L03 3352 China's Urban Experience: Shanghai and Beyond
    • L03 484 Core Seminar in East Asian Studies: East Asia in Scholarly Literature
    • L22 5280 Historiography of Late Imperial China
    • L03 555 Advanced Topics in Modern Chinese History

    Selected Publications


    Runaway Wives, Urban Crimes, and Survival Tactics in Wartime Beijing, 1937–1949

    Runaway Wives, Urban Crimes, and Survival Tactics in Wartime Beijing, 1937–1949

    From 1937 to 1949, Beijing was in a state of crisis. The combined forces of Japanese occupation, civil war, runaway inflation, and reformist campaigns and revolutionary efforts wreaked havoc on the city’s economy, upset the political order, and threatened the social and moral fabric as well. Women, especially lower-class women living in Beijing’s tenement neighborhoods, were among those most affected by these upheavals. Delving into testimonies from criminal case files, Zhao Ma explores intimate accounts of lower-class women’s struggles with poverty, deprivation, and marital strife. By uncovering the set of everyday tactics that women devised and utilized in their personal efforts to cope with predatory policies and crushing poverty, this book reveals an urban underworld that was built on an informal economy and conducted primarily through neighborhood networks. Where necessary, women relied on customary practices, hierarchical patterns of household authority, illegitimate relationships, and criminal entrepreneurship to get by. Women’s survival tactics, embedded in and reproduced by their everyday experience, opened possibilities for them to modify the male-dominated city and, more importantly, allowed women to subtly deflect, subvert, and “escape without leaving” powerful forces such as the surveillance state, reformist discourse, and revolutionary politics during and beyond wartime Beijing.