Johanna Ransmeier

Assistant Professor
Department of History and the College 

Johanna Ransmeier studies local practices revealed in police and judicial records and the intersection of law and family life in modern China. Currently she is completing a book on the practice of selling people in North China during the Late Qing and Republican periods, the first such work to be devoted to the subject of slavery and human trafficking in China during this period. Her research efforts within China’s judicial archives have also led her to new areas of interest extending beyond trafficking cases. She is now gathering evidence of other extra-legal activities that modeled themselves on perceived rather than actual textual law, for use in a second book project relating to legal literacy and the law as it was imagined at the margins of legality. This research also asks a question with special resonance in today’s China: What happens when “legal literacy” and legitimate expectations of the law get ahead of the ability of legal institutions to deliver on the promise of new legislation? 

Her scholarship has been supported by grants from the Mellon Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the Fulbright Association, Le Fonds de Recherche du Québec—Société et Culture (FQRSC), and Yale and McGill Universities. 

Ransmeier graduated from Amherst College and later earned her MA
and PhD from Yale University. Between college and graduate school, she worked in the field of human rights advocacy, serving as an interpreter and assistant to Chinese activists. 

Ransmeier joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2013.

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