Roxann Prazniak

Roxann Prazniak

Professor of History | 541-346-3345 | 328 Chapman Hall

Curriculum Vitae

ACADEMIC AREAS: History of China and Eurasia, Emergence of Modernity, Transcultural Studies

Teaching Philosophy

My classroom is a learning lab, a history workshop to which students and I bring diverse experiences and insights. Above all, I strive to orchestrate engaged intellectual discourse through small group tutorials and shared creative exercises. I encourage expression of dissenting views within a respectful atmosphere as an essential way to explore the complex conditions that make up our past and present. My primary teaching goal is for students to become citizens who understand the methods and value of historical thinking by gaining experience in historical practice through their own research projects, oral presentations, and essay writing.


Past Courses

HC 231H Crossing the Pamir Mountains: Eurasian History from the Persian to Mongol Empires

HC 232H Mapping Modernities: Geography, Commerce, and Technology

HC 233H Comparative History: An Approach to Historical Research

HC 431H The Animal-Human Bond in Science, Art, and History

HC 434H/431H Inventing Confucius

HC 434H/431H Italo Calvino: History, Art, and Science in the Modern World

Opportunities for Students

Study Abroad in Siena, Italy - Spring 2018

Professor Prazniak will lead students on a unique exploration of the Tuscan landscape to learn about the historical, artistic, and literary accounts of travels along this route of the Franks from the thirteenth century to the present. Students will enroll in two upper division colloquia (8 credits total) and explore the political, intellectual, and personal aspects of modernity through the fiction of one of Italy’s most heralded writers, Italo Calvino, whose writings delve into fascinating reconstructions, including conversations between historical figures such as Marco Polo and Khubilai Khan, or attempts to express scientific theories such as quantum physics in literary form.

Via Francigena: Trekking Through Italian History (4 credits)

Trek along the Via Francigena (route of the Franks) from the French border to Genoa, along the Ligurian coast of the Cinque Terra, to Lucca and Siena and finally Rome. The present day economic and cultural conditions of towns along the Via Francigena will win our attention as we attempt to understand the communications that defined this route in the pre-modern era of the troubadours, the newsprint world of the industrial era, and the e-world of contemporary times.  

Italio Calvino: History, Art, and Science in the Twentieth Century (4 credits)

Author Italo Calvino (1923-1985) was born in Cuba to Italian parents, and grew up in Sanremo on the Via Francigena. He studied botany at Pavia University but secretly wrote fiction, and worked as a journalist, novelist, and resistance fighter in World War II. This course focuses on selections from Calvino’s writings in various genres including his stories that attempt to express scientific theories such as quantum physics in literary form. Other pieces recreate conversations between Marco Polo and Khubilai Khan. His writings on World War II reflect moral and political dilemmas of the modern industrial era.

Academic Background

Ph.D., History, University of California - Davis, 1981
M.A., History, San Francisco State University, 1973
B.A., History, University of California - Berkeley, 1970

Professor Prazniak was Elliott Professor of History at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia before joining the Clark Honors College in 2002. She is a member of the Association for Asian Studies, the American History Association, and the World History Association. Prazniak served as Associate Director of the honors college from 2004 - 2006, and has represented the honors college in the University Senate.

Research Interests & Current Projects

Roxann Prazniak is an historian of China and Eurasia. Her work relies on a comparative approach that defines the uniqueness of each historical situation in its larger context. By looking at a particular event or development as well as its regional and inter-regional context, such as "Patterns of Urban and Commercial Development: The Capital Cities of Paris and Hangzhou," or "Philosophical and Environmental Perspectives in Nature Art: Claude Monet and Qi Baishi," Prazniak approaches a fuller understanding of both historical processes and consequences. Her fieldwork in rural China examines cultures of protest in the early twentieth century, and draws on the voices of village dissidents to frame a national discourse on the dilemmas of modernity. Her case studies explore the organizational and cultural networks through which rural protesters sustained their historical consciousness, and mobilized to interpret contemporary political conditions. 

Prazniak's current work considers the Eurasian origins of early modernity. Through visual evidence from manuscript illustrations and frescoes - especially from the workshops of Tabriz which produced illustrated manuscripts fusing Persian, Islamic, Italian, Greek, and Buddhist elements - Prazniak traces the dynamics of cultural flow across Eurasia during the Mongol era. Her perspective suggests that the turn to modernity in human history was more of a shared process across social and cultural zones than the unique product of any one society. Research for her next book, Sudden Appearances: Visuality and Belief in Mongol Eurasia, has taken her to the Northwest National Minorities University in Lanzhou, Gansu (PRC), the rare documents collection of the Bibliothèque (BnF) in Paris, Ladakh in the Himalayas, and the Topkapi Library in Istanbul, Turkey.

Professor Prazniak's writings have been published in Korean and Chinese.


  • 2013: Faculty Research Award, University of Oregon
  • 2000: Crawley Award for Outstanding Service to the Community, Hampden-Sydney College
  • 1999: Mednick Fellowship, Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges
  • 1996: John Peter Mettauer Award for Faculty Research, Hampden-Sydney College
  • 1995 - 2002: Elliott Chaired Professorship, Hampden-Sydney College
  • 1989: Mednick Fellowship, Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges
  • 1983: National Academy of Sciences Fellowship - Scholarly Communication with the People's Republic of China

Selected Publications

For a complete publication list see Professor Prazniak's Curriculum Vitae.




Cover of Global Capitalism and the Future of Agrarian Society
Cover of Place and Politics in an Age of Globalization
Cover of Of Camel Kings and Other Things: Rural Rebels Against Modernity in Late Imperial China
Cover of Dialogues Across Civilizations: Sketches in World History from the Chinese and European Experiences