University of California, Riverside

Department of History

Lynda S. Bell

Lynda Bell
Office Phone: (951) 827-7179


Lynda S. Bell

Associate Professor of History

Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 1985 B.A., Washington University, 1970; summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa


A product of Cold War projects in the U.S. to study “our enemies,” Lynda Bell started studying Chinese language in a high school pilot program in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1963.  In time, her early opportunity to learn Chinese propelled her in odd directions, at least in the context of the 1960s and early 1970s. She majored in Asian Studies at Washington University, where she also became an activist against the Vietnam War and graduated in the spring of the Kent State tragedy, experiences that influenced a “wait and see” attitude about graduate school. Eventually, she made her way back to academia at UCLA, and was one of the first seven American graduate students to conduct research in China under the auspices of the National Academy of Science beginning in early 1979, when the U.S. finally ended 30 years of “non-recognition” of the government of the PRC. Intrigued by the history of the Chinese revolution, and also by the everyday life of the peasantry, Bell’s research has focused on revoltionary politics, changing class relations, and the political economy of the countryside. She also has a strong predilection for studying peasant women’s lives, with a special focus on peasant women and work. Major publications include One Industry, Two Chinas: Silk Filatures and Peasant-Family Production in Wuxi County, 1865-1937 (Stanford University Press, 1999), and Negotiating Culture and Human Rights: Beyond Universalism and Relativism (with Andrew J. Nathan and Ilan Peleg, Columbia University Press, 2001). New work in progress includes a book-length manuscript on the politics of peasant women’s work during the 1950s, tentatively entitled Women and the Nation in Mao’s China.

A second major area of interest in terms of scholarly work involves interdisciplinary study and collaboration, especially (of late) with anthropologists and ethnomusicologists. In the fall of 2009, Bell and three colleagues from the departments of anthropology and music at UCR comprised a fellows group at the UCR Center for Ideas and Society, concentrating on the analytic of “post-socialisms” in the “non-western” locales they study—China, Vietnam, Cuba, and Peru. This fellows group has subsequently received funding for a “non-western post-socialisms” conference to be held at UCR in the fall of 2011, entitled, "Global Postsocialisms? Reconfigured Utopias, Cultures of Nostalgia, and the Future of Everyday Politics." Bell is collaborating with Christina Schwenkel of the UCR Anthropology Department on a comparative study of museums that commemorate revolution in Vietnam and China as part of this post-socialisms project.  She will be conducting research at the new "National Museum of China" in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square during 2010-2011, gathering material for this project, for which she received a UCR Academic Senate Committee on Research (COR) fellowship. From 1999 to 2002, Bell was the University of California’s Education Abroad Faculty Director in Beijing, and in 2003, while on sabbatical in Beijing, lived through the SARS epidemic. Overall, Bell has lived a total of eight years in the PRC.


  • 2007-08—College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, UC Riverside, Patricia McSweeny McCauley Chair in Teaching Excellence
  • 1999—College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, UC Riverside; Principal Investigator, The Hewlett Program in General Education; $300,000 award
  • 1998—Principal Investigator, NEH Humanities Focus Grant, "Cultural Differ­ence and Values: Universal Human Rights and the Challenge of Relativism," for conference and book manuscript preparation—Negotiating Culture and Human Rights (Columbia University Press, 2001)
  • 1997—NEH Fellow, Summer Seminar at Columbia University, "The Asian Values Debate: Human Rights and the Study of Culture as Problems for Area Studies"
  • 1986-87—Fellowship for Advanced Study and Research at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Economics, Beijing; from the National Academy of Sci­ences,Committee on Scholarly Communication with China
  • 1986-87—Fellowship for Independent Study and Research, National Endowment for the Humanities
  • 1979-81—Advanced Trainee Fellowship for dissertation research, National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Scholarly Communication with China


  • American Historical Association
  • Association for Asian Studies


  • HIST 020: World History: The Twentieth Century
  • HIST 182: Modern China
  • HIST 191W: Senior Seminar, with a focus on modern China topics
  • HIST 207B: Materials for the Modern World
  • HIST 301: Teaching History at the College Level

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

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3400 Humanities & Social Sciences Bldg.
Tel: (951) 827-3683
Fax: (951) 827-5836

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Tel: (951) 827-1546
Fax: (951) 827-4537


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