Dewei Shen specializes in historical archaeology and early manuscript studies, with a focus on a) the microhistory of colonial encounters that occurred in early regional societies in South China and b) the first wave of imperiogenesis in East Asia between the fourth and second centuries BCE. Trained as a historian and social archaeologist, he participated in a series of excavations—including fieldwork at late Neolithic sites in North China and burial sites of the Xiongnu and Mongols in Eastern Mongolia—and conducted surveys of ancient city sites in the middle Yangtze River region as well. He also worked as a guest researcher in several archaeological institutes in Hubei and Hunan Provinces of China in 2017 and 2018 to study newly excavated bamboo manuscripts, which documented in detail local administrative and religious practices at a time when China, for the first time in history, transformed into a universal empire.
At Stanford, Dewei is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) and a fellow at the Center for Textual and Spatial Analysis (CESTA). Prior to Stanford, he earned his PhD at Yale in 2021, where he was also awarded the Marston Anderson Prize for Distinguished Dissertation. His current project challenges the dominant dayitong (“great unification”) narrative in studies of the rise of early Chinese empires through a micro-scale investigation of the collapse and transformation of Jiangling—the former Chu capital in southern Hubei—in the wake of the Qin and Han conquests. Collaborating with a group of digital humanists at CESTA, Dewei is also incorporating recent archaeological and manuscript data to develop databases and visualization tools that help to study early urbanization and city networks of South China.