Han Studies Group

Frieberg Center Group for Han Studies

The “Frieberg Center Group for Han Studies,” based at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was born of a fortunate meeting, in Israel, of a number of international Han experts: Prof. Elisa Levi Sabattini (PhD from Ca’ Foscari of Venice and INALCO of Paris), associate professor at Università di Sassari (Italy) and visiting researcher at the Frieberg Center; Dr. Rebecca Robinson (PhD from McGill University), postdoctoral researcher at the Frieberg Center; Dr. Sharon Sanderovitch (PhD from UC-Berkeley), postdoctoral researcher at the Zvi Yavetz School of Historical Studies, Tel Aviv University; and Anatoly Polnarov, doctoral candidate at the Jack Joseph and Morton Mandel School for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, Hebrew University.

The Group for Han Studies condenses different aspects of the study of the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) as represented in—but not limited by—the current research interests of its members: economic reforms and their political implications (Levi Sabattini); comparative empires (Han and Rome), religion, and calendars (Robinson); theories of monarchy, praise literature, and visual culture (Sanderovitch); and disputation at the Han court (Polnarov). Our shared interest is in understanding different facets of the development of the Han imperial system, which was to leave a definite mark on the development of imperial institutions and imperial culture more broadly in subsequent dynasties. In addition to research that involves the surviving rhetorical literature and questions that pertain to imperial ideology, we are particularly interested in the intricacies of court and regional politics, religious practices, and material culture, and in how the study of these topics can enhance our understanding of the imperial project in early China.

The group meets on a regular base in order to share and discuss draft papers, lectures, and talks related to our topics. We further intend to organize a series of workshops as a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration among Han scholars from Israel, Europe, and elsewhere around the world. Details about the first workshop will be announced by May 2018.



Elisa Levi Sabattini is Associate Professor of Sinology at the University of Sassari and she is affiliated as visiting researcher at the Louis Frieberg Center for East Asian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She received her PhD from Ca’ Foscari University at Venice as a co-tutelle degree with the INALCO at Paris in 2006. She was a post-doc fellow at KULeuven (Belgium) with a grant from the CCK Fellowship of Taipei (Taiwan).

Her research focuses on the intellectual history of early China, with special attention to Western Han political rhetoric within the construction of the imperial system, early economic thought, and the idea of “diplomatic war”.

She is author of several articles and book chapters, both in English and Italian, published for international peer-reviewed journals, such as Oriens Extremus, Extrême-Orient, Extrême-OccidentFrontiers of Philosophy in China, Monumenta Serica. Levi Sabattini is co-editing a book together with Christian Schwermann on Between Command and Market: Economic Thought and Practice in Early China for Brill (expected for 2018) and co-translating the Xinyu by Lu Jia together with Paul R. Goldin (expected for 2018).

Anatoly Polnarov received B.Sc. and M.A. degrees from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and now is a PhD student at the Mandel School for Advanced Studies in Humanities in the same university. His PhD dissertation title is “Rhetoric of polarization in the Former Han China (206/202 BCE – 9 CE)” 

Rebecca Robinson is a postdoctoral fellow at the Louis Frieberg Center for East Asian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  She completed her PhD, “Cult and Calendars in the Ancient Empires of Qin, Han, and Rome” at McGill University in 2017. Her research is in the field of global antiquities, with a particular interest in the role of religion in society.

Sharon Sanderovitch is a Thomas Arthur Arnold Fellow at The Zvi Yavetz School of Historical Studies, Tel Aviv University. She obtained her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, in the summer of 2017, with a dissertation titled “Presence and Praise: Writing the Imperial Body in Han China.” Her study of the intellectual history of early imperial China combines political rhetoric, historiography, and belles lettres, with an evolving interest in the traces of Han visual culture in the surviving literature from the period.