At IIAS, Steffen Rimner is completing his first book, which is a history of the Asian origins of global drug control from the Opium Wars to the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations. The book offers to explain why the opium trade provoked not only Chinese national but transnational opposition, why opposition spread within and across East and Southeast Asia and how this opposition laid the foundations for the global regime of drug control as we know it today.

Under contract with Harvard University Press, the book analyzes the character and the consequences of anti-drug mobilization in its social, ideological and political aspects and the spectrum of responses from diplomacy to international law. As such, the book hopes to engage, correlate and contribute to the study of Asian protest movements, the limits of multi-imperial cooperation, the non-governmental roots of global governance issues, historical compliance and defiance in international law and the structural continuities of international public health crises.

Rimner's broader interests concern the history of inter-Asian connections, transregional history, Asian opposition to imperialism and Asian contributions to the multifold transformations of international organizations and international law. His publications include an exploration of Asian women pioneers in medicine which appeared in Asia Pacific in the Age of Globalization in the Palgrave Macmillan’s Transnational History Series, a forthcoming article on the Chinese abolition of the “coolie trade” to Cuba and Peru and a contribution to a volume on The Global Public by Oxford University Press.


Steffen Rimner was educated at the University of Konstanz, Yale University and Harvard University where he received his Ph.D. in International History in May 2014. His research has led him to multi-lingual archives in eleven countries across Asia, Western Europe and North America, thanks to support by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, the Harvard University Asia Center, the Committee on Australian Studies at Harvard, the American Philosophical Society, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and others.

He spent three years at Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and was appointed the John Clive Fellow at Harvard University. In 2013-14, he was a fellow of the SIAS consortium seminar on “Cultural Encounters: Global Perspectives and Local Exchanges, 1750-1940” at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study) and the National Humanities Center in North Carolina. He has held postdoctoral positions at Yale University and the University of Oxford and has been appointed a Transregional Research Junior Scholar of the InterAsia program of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).

Before joining IIAS this academic year, Rimner was a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute (WEAI) at Columbia University.

He has taught at Harvard and Columbia where he served as the WEAI’s liaison to the International Network to Expand Regional and Collaborative Teaching (INTERACT).

Selected Publications

“Chinese abolitionism: the Chinese Educational Mission in Connecticut, Cuba and Peru,” Journal of Global History, 11, 3 (Nov. 2016), forthcoming.

“Beyond the Call of Duty: Cosmopolitan Education and the Origins of Asian-American Women’s Medicine,” in Asia Pacific in the Age of Globalization, ed. Robert David Johnson (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).