Ke Li

Ke Li

Assistant Professor
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Room number and address: 
NB 09.65.34


  • Joint Ph.D. in Sociology and Criminal Justice

    Indiana University, Bloomington

  • M.A. in Criminal Justice

    Indiana University, Bloomington

  • B.A. in Law

    Nanjing University, China


My research focuses on law and society in contemporary China with particular attention to the connections between dispute management, social inequality, and power relationships in everyday life. For the past decade, I have been examining how the official justice system in rural China reacts to the rise of divorce among an increasingly mobile population. This line of inquiry has led me to investigate the processes through which divorce litigation reinforces and reproduces gender inequality in marriage and family life in a rapidly changing society.

Currently, I am working on a book manuscript, entitled Marriage Unbound: Divorce Litigation, Power, and Inequailty in Contemporary China. Drawing on years of field research conducted in southwest China, this book explores the rise of divorce in rural communities by juxtaposing the experiences of four social groups: rural women embroiled in marital disputes, village leaders and government officials responsible for dispute resolution, legal professionals who make a living by serving clients from the countryside, and, finally, judges at the frontier of the administration of justice. This multifaceted approach allows me to unpack the complex power dynamics between disempowered groups and political/professional elites in contemporary China. Through fine-grained ethnographic and archival research, I hope that this book will offer fresh insights into the intricate power relationships surounding the official justice system in post-socialist China. 

Course Taught

2018                  LWS 425 Colloquium for Research in Law and Society
2017-2018       LWS 200 Introduction to Law and Society

Scholarly Work

Manuscript in preparation

 Marriage Unbound: Divorce Litigation, Power, and Inequality in Contemporary China (book manuscript, under contract with Stanford University Press).

Journal articles

2016 “Relational Embeddedness and Socially Motivated Case Screening in the Practice of Law in Rural China,” Law & Society Review 50(4): 920-  952.

2016   “Government Influence and Gender Differences in the Transition to Adulthood among Provincial-Origin Chinese College Graduates,” American Review of Chinese Studies 17(1) (with Danielle Kane and Yiting Li).

2015   “‘What He Did Was Lawful’: Divorce Litigation and Gender Inequality in China,” Law & Policy 37(3): 153-179.

Book chapters

2017   “Invisible Victims and Anonymous Communities: U.S. Media Portrayals of Chinese International Students Involved in Homicide.” Pp.139- 156 in Asian/Americans, Education, and Crime: The Model Minority as Victim and Perpetrator, edited by Daisy Ball and Nicholas D. Hartlep, Landham, MD: Lexington Books.

2016  “Wedding Marriage to the Nation-State in Modern China: Legal Consequences for Divorce, Property, and Women’s Rights.” Pp.147-169 in Domestic Tensions, National Anxieties: Global Perspectives on Modern Marriage Crises, edited by Kristin Celello and Hanan Kholoussy, New York: Oxford University Press (with Sara L. Friedman).



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