Ke Li

Ke Li

Assistant Professor
Phone number: 
Room number and address: 
New Building 09.65.34


  • 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, broadly speaking, focuses on law and society in contemporary China. In a decade or so, I have mainly studied divorce litigation among an increasingly mobile population in Chinese society. This study has led to several publications, including a book, Marriage Unbound: State Law, Power, and Inequality in Contemporary China (Stanford University Press 2022). 

Drawing on data from multiple sources—participant observations, in-depth interviews, judicial statistics, internal documents, and news articles—this book presents a stirring portrayal of how Chinese women navigate divorce litigation. It also offers a uniquely in-depth account of the modern Chinese legal system. In this way, Marriage Unbound shines a light on the struggles between the powerful and the powerless on the front line of dispute management; the complex interplay between culture and the state; and insidious statecraft that far too often sacrifices women’s rights and interests. Ultimately, the book shows how women’s legal mobilization and rights contention can forge new ground for our understanding of law, politics, and inequality in an authoritarian state.

In recent years, I have branched out into new research areas. In one project, I team up with colleagues in China to explore impact litigation. More specifically, we examine how Chinese experts, such as academics, lawyers, and medical professionals, aid the cause of LGBTQ groups by launching legal action to contest not only individual rights, but public knowledge of homosexuality, mental health, and equal employment opportunity.

In another project, I deepen my inquiries into dispute resolution, legal mobilization, and knowledge production–through the lens of doctor-patient disputes in China. In the years to come, I will conduct ethnographic and archival research to address the following questions: Why and how have Chinese hospitals served as a breeding ground for violent conflicts between medical staff and individuals in need of care? How does the healthcare system respond to the steady rise of doctor-patient disputes? What procedures or mechanisms have been applied to tackle such disputes? How often, on whom, and with what outcomes? How have the latest economic reforms affected doctor-patient relationships, access to medical services, and the linkage between health and social inequality? Eventually, in what ways can a study of medical disputes inform us of the complex interplay of economic reforms, state laws, and knowledge contestation in a transitional society?

Course Taught

  • LWS 200 Introduction to Law and Society
  • LWS 225 Introduction to Research Methods in Law and Society 
  • LWS 385 Legal Disruption Project
  • LWS 425 Colloquium for Research in Law and Society

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