Ke Li

Ke Li

Assistant Professor
Phone number: 
Room number: 
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 


My research focuses on law and society in contemporary China with particular attention to the connections between dispute processing, social inequality, and power relationships in everyday life. For the past few years, 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 gives rise to and reproduces gender inequality in marriage and family life in a rapidly changing society.

Currently, I am working on a book project with the intention to deepen the analysis of the interplay of divorce litigation and power structures in rural China. Drawing on years of fieldwork conducted in southern Sichuan Province, this project 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 settlement, legal professionals who make a living by serving clients from the countryside, and last but not least, 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, this project seeks to offers fresh insights into the intricate power relationships undergirding the official justice system in transitional societies; moreover, it aims to add new depth to scholarly knowledge of strategies of quiescence, resistance, and resignation adopted by the disempowered in the face of glaring inequality and injustice.


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.

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,” 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,” 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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