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Garret Olberding

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Garret Olberding

Garret Olberding

Dr. Garret P. Olberding is a historian of early China, with research interests in historiography, representations of strategic space, and the management of administrative corruption. His first monograph, Dubious Facts: The Evidence of Early Chinese Historiography (SUNY Press, 2012), used the military memorials of the Former Han Dynasty (202 BCE - 8 CE) to explore the employment of evidence in early Chinese imperial court discourse.

In the Spring of 2009, Dr. Olberding hosted a workshop funded by the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange from which proceeded an edited volume, Facing the Monarch: Modes of Advice in the Early Chinese Court (Harvard University Press, Asia Center Publications, 2013).

In 2016, he was awarded two further grants from the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation to pursue research for a monograph and organize another international conference, both pertaining to conceptualizations of space in pre-modern China.

His second monograph, Designing Boundaries in Early China: The Composition of Sovereign Space (Cambridge University Press, 2022), argues that sovereign space was zonally exerted, with monarchical powers expressed gradually over an area, based on possibilities for administrative action. This dynamically shifting, ritualized articulation of early Chinese sovereignty affects the interpretation of the spatial application of state force, including its cartographic representations.

His second edited volume, The Exercise of the Spatial Imagination in Pre-Modern China: Shaping the Expanse (DeGruyter, 2022), examines the exercise of the spatial imagination in pre-modern China across five general areas: pictorial representation, literary description, cartographic mappings, and the intertwining of heavenly and earthly space. It recommends that the spatial imagination in the pre-modern Chinese world cannot adequately be captured using a linear, militarily framed conceptualization. The scope and varying perspectives on the spatial imagination analyzed in the volume’s essays reveal a complex range of aspects that informs how space was designed and utilized.

His current research project investigates the means by which the ministerial application of imperial orders was supervised in the Qin and Han dynasties in order to discern the broad management of administrative corruption.

Dr. Olberding’s course offerings are “China’s Art of War,” “East Asia to 1600,” “Early Imperial China,” “Classical China,” and “Law and Punishment.”

Dr. Olberding received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.