Gross Prize winners Wen Yu and Mou Banerjee

May 31, 2018
Harvard Shield

Congratulations to recent Ph.D. graduates Wen Yu and Mou Banerjee.

The Gross Prize is awarded to the Ph.D. recipient whose dissertation “gives great promise of a distinguished career of historical research.” 

Wen Yu PhotoWen Yu graduated in 2018 with a Ph.D. from the Harvard University History Department. Born and raised in China, she studied history at Fudan University before coming to Harvard. Her research focused on modern Chinese intellectual history, particularly the history of social and political thought, ideologies, and intellectual culture in China from the seventeenth century to the present. 

Her dissertation, entitled “The Search for the Chinese Way in a Modern World: from the Rise of Evidential Scholarship to the Birth of Chinese Identity,” explains how the definition of a Chinese cultural identity became central to the intellectual debates over the political system and moral values in the twentieth century. Challenging the mainstream view that China’s transition from an imperial order to a modern nation state was purely a Westernizing process, the dissertation situates the making of modern Chinese nationalism in a long history of intellectual change beginning in the seventeenth century, showing how debates rooted in the Confucian learning traditions shaped the ideological foundation of modern China. 

Mou Banerjee graduated in 2018 with a Ph.D. from the Harvard University History Department. She specialized in Modern South Asian History.

Her research explores the dialogues and debates of Indian intellectuals with evangelical Protestant Christianity and missionaries in the nineteenth century, especially in the Bengal Presidency in India. In her analysis of these debates, Banerjee charts the development of a complex relationship of overt repudiation and covert fascination, where Christianity was perceived as a religion and a philosophy, a discursive and dialectical category, a denominator of racial and social difference, and as a repository of Enlightenment ethos and modernity. Banerjee investigates the way in which this examination of Christianity represents a philosophical engagement, leading to contestation over the nature of faith's socio-political implications, and of the political responsibility of the colonized subjects.