Janet Chen is a historian of modern China, specializing in the 20th century. She joined the faculty of the Princeton History Department in 2006, and she is also a member of the East Asian Studies Department.
Professor Chen’s first book, Guilty of Indigence: The Urban Poor in China, 1900-1953 (Princeton University Press, 2012), is a study of the destitute homeless during a time of war and revolution. Focusing on Beijing and Shanghai, the book considers how the advent of workhouses and poorhouses in the early twentieth century represented a fundamental reordering of the relationship between the state, private charity, and the neediest members of society. It draws on local archival research to place “the poor,” rather than their benefactors and custodians, at the center of inquiry.
She currently has a new project underway, provisionally titled The Sounds of Mandarin, which will investigate the history of China's spoken national language.
She received her Ph.D. from Yale University and a B.A. from Williams College.