Edith Chen

7th-year Ph.D. student
Email Address: 
Office Location: 
Jones Hall


I arrived at Princeton in the fall of 2014 to begin my doctoral studies in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. I always had an interest in law and the Middle East, and as an undergraduate I studied Public Policy and Islamic Studies at Duke University. Afterwards I attended Boston College Law School for a year and interned at the Boston Juvenile Court. While enjoying most of the 1L curriculum, especially constitutional law and (even) civil procedure, I realized that I did not wish to pursue a legal career. Nevertheless, I harbor an abiding interest in the development of law, procedures, and legal theories, and what these reveal about social history. In 2012 I received a FLAS fellowship and obtained a Masters in Middle East Studies from Harvard. While attending lectures there, I found myself becoming more inspired by medieval Islamic history and the questions it raises regarding the relationships between individuals, society, the courts, and the law, especially in the post-caliphate period.


I am broadly interested in the social, political, and administrative history of the Mongol Empire. Specifically, I would like to study the interaction between sedentary and nomadic civilizations as expressed in developments in Mongol, Chinese, and Islamic law, and explore questions of legal pluralism. Rather than focusing on Ilkhanate or Timurid Persia, I would like to take a holistic view of the Mongol Empire by incorporating Yüan China into my studies, while also devoting attention to scholarship on the other khanates. While at Princeton, I took courses offered by the East Asian Studies department that would allow me to work with sources in Classical Chinese, such as the dynastic histories and prosopographies of officials. Eventually I would like to incorporate compendiums of legal opinions, case laws, and commentaries into my work. Rather than speculate on the nature of the Great Yasa, I would like to explore how steppe legal traditions actually operated and influenced other legal traditions, and vice versa. I also have an interest in how the concepts of law and justice were expressed in Persian poetry and literature of the period, as well as an interest in scientific and artistic exchanges between the khanates.