About Us

Professor / Chairperson

Office NAH 409
Office Tel. 3943 1899
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Educational qualification Ph.D., University of North Carolina


I have recently moved to The Chinese University of Hong Kong after nearly twenty years at the Australian National University. My research involves social, cultural and political change in contemporary China. I am currently working on several projects, including a comparative study of urbanization, kinship and the commercialization of ritual. I have recently completed a book on urbanization in a mid-sized Chinese city, an edited volume titled Chinese Modernity and the Individual Psyche and a textbook on Contemporary Chinese Society. I have also written books on educational desire and governing, a book on the implications for anthropological theory of issues that arise in the governing of socialist states and a book on patterns of gift giving and social exchange in rural China. From 2006-2015 I was co-editor of The China Journal.

Research interests

Anthropology of governing; urbanisation; postsocialism and postsocialist societies; anthropology of education; processes of subjectification; kinship and gender; gift giving and economic exchange; ritual industries; language and culture; truth and “post-truth”; China; East Asia

Selected Publications

Books as Author
2021 The Funeral of Mr. Wang: Life Death and Ghosts in Urbanizing China. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. A free electronic version of this book may be downloaded at https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520381971/the-funeral-of-mr-wang
2016 From Village to City: Social Transformation in a Chinese County Seat.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 275pp.  Translation into Chinese forthcoming with East China Normal University Press.
2013 Contemporary China: Society and Social Change, with Tamara Jacka and Sally Sargeson, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 325pp.
2011 Governing Educational Desire:  Culture, Politics and Schooling in China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 218pp.  Winner of the 2012 American Anthropology Association’s Francis L.K. Hsu Book Prize for best book on an East Asian topic.  Translation into Chinese forthcoming with East China Normal University Press.
2008 China and Postsocialist Anthropology: Theorizing Power and Society after Communism. Norwalk, CT: Eastbridge Books, 268pp.
1997 Producing Guanxi: Sentiment, Self And Subculture In A North China Village. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 240pp. Reprinted in 2010 by Duke University Press.  Translated into Chinese as 关系的产生(山东人民出版社
Books and Journal Issues as Editor
Jan 2020 coeditor of the journal Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory.
Jan 2006 – Jun 2015 coeditor of The China Journal with Luigi Tomba. 250-280 pp. per issue, 19 issues total.
2012 Chinese Modernity and the Individual Psyche. New York: Palgrave Macmillan 240pp. (as part of the Mind, Self and Society series of the Society for Psychological Anthropology, series editor Rebecca Lester). I am sole editor of this volume and author of two chapters.
2009 Chinese Politics and Society (4 volumes, roughly 1900 pp.), co-edited with Jonathan Unger and Luigi Tomba.  Routledge. (author of introduction to volume IV, pp 1-4).
2007 Chinese Sociology and Anthropology, co-edited with Graeme Smith, special issue on the writings of Zhao Shukai titled, “Rural Governance in the midst of Underfunding, Deception and Mistrust.” 39(2) Winter (93pp.).
Journal Articles
2020 with Tom Cliff. “Chinese Economies in Ethnographic Perspective: Two Case Studies of Intersecting Socioeconomic Diversity” Modern Asian Studies. Pp. 1-35. doi:10.1017/S0026749X18000409.
2019 “Funerals and Religious Modernity in China” Review of Religion and Chinese Society 6:253-272.
2018 “Mediated Agency and Funeral Insurance in China” Political and Legal Anthropology Review 41(2):319-325.
2017 “Governing the Souls of Chinese Modernity” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7(2):217-238.
2015 “Agency between Humanism and Posthumanism: Latour and his Opponents” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 5(2):59-74.
2013 “Urbanisation in Between: Rural traces in a Rapidly Growing and Industrializing County City” China Perspectives 2013(3):5-12. Translated into French and published in 2013(3) issue of Perspectives Chinoises.  Translated into Chinese and published in the 2016/02 (#34) issue of Journal of Ethnology (民族学刊) 50-58.
2012 “Constructing Commonality: Standardization and Modernization in Chinese Nation-Building” Journal of Asian Studies 71(3):731-755.
2012 “Chinese Nation-Building and the Rethinking of Globalization and Education” Policy Futures in Education 10(2):78-80.
2011 “Chinese Nation-Building As, Instead of, and Before Globalization” Protosociology, 28:25-48.
2011 “Subjectification and Education for Quality in China” Economy and Society 40(2):289-306.  Reprinted in a 2013 Routledge volume Rights, Cultures, Subjects and Citizens edited by Susanne Brandstadder, Peter Wade and Kath Woodward. Also translated into Chinese and published in the 2011 volume of Guancang Yingyu Baokan.
2010 with Shanfeng Li, “Is Chinese Education Underfunded” The China Quarterly 202:327-343 (June 2010).
2008 “Audit Cultures: Neoliberal Governmentality, Socialist legacy or Technologies of Governing?” American Ethnologist 35(2):275-289. Reprinted in Contemporary Cultures , Global Connections: Anthropology for the 21st Century (ed. Victoria Bernal, 2012, Caguilla Academic Publishing). Translated into Turkish and published in Küresel Bakış Çeviri Hukuk Dergis by the Turkish Justice Academy.
2007 “Neoliberalism Reified: Suzhi Discourse and Tropes of Neoliberalism in the PRC” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13:383-399.  Translated into Turkish and published by the Ataturk University Faculty of Law.
2007 “Introduction” to special issue of Chinese Sociology and Anthropology 39(2):3-7.
2006 “School Consolidation in Rural China” Development Bulletin 70 (April 2006):123-125.
2006 “Suzhi: A Keyword Approach” China Quarterly #186:295-313.
2005 “Political Economy After Mao: Towards a Neo-Durkheimian Theory” Asian Anthropology 4:59-90.

“Anthropology and the Theorisation of Citizenship” The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 5(3):257-278.

2003 “Neo-Leftists versus Neo-Liberals: PRC Intellectual Debates in the 1990s”  Journal of Intercultural Studies 24(3):239-251.
2003 “Post-Marxism in a Post-Socialist Perspective.”  Anthropological Theory 3(4):459-482.
2003 “The Anthropology of Power and Maoism.” American Anthropologist 105(2):278-288.
2002 “Zouping Christianity as Gendered Critique? The Place of the Political In Ethnography” Anthropology and Humanism 27(1):80-96.
2001 “Articulating School Counter-Cultures” Anthropology and Education Quarterly 32(4): 472-492.
2001 “The Disturbing Educational Discipline of Peasants” The China Journal 46:1-24 (July 2001).  Reprinted in Chinese Politics and Society.  Also translated into Chinese and published in the 2007 volume of Dangdai Shehui Fazhan Yanjiu.
2001 “The Flourishing of Religion in Post-Mao China and the Anthropological Category of Religion” The Australian Journal of Anthropology 12(1):32-46.
1997 “Anti-Maoist Gender: Hibiscus Town‘s Naturalization of a Dengist Sex/Gender/Kinship System” Asian Cinema 8(2):66-75.
1996 “The Language of Gifts: Managing Guanxi In A North China Village” Modern China 22(3):285-314. Reprinted in Chinese Politics and Society.
1995 “`Face:’ An Adaptable Discourse Of Social Surfaces” positions: east asia cultures critique 3(1):119-148.
1995 “Within and Against Peasantness: Backwardness and Filiality In Rural China” Comparative Studies In Society and History 37(1):110-136.
1994 with Dorothy Holland “Metaphors for Embarrassment and Stories of Exposure: The Not-So-Egocentric Self In American Culture.” Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 22(3):316-342.
1994 “Yogic Meditation and Social Responsibility” Buddhist Christian Studies 14:111-126.
Review Essays
2017 “The Universality of Sex and Death” American Anthropologist 119(4):759-761.
2016 “Modernity and Chinese Moral Crisis” The China Journal 75:121-127.
2003 “Anthropological Approaches to Self in Contemporary China” The China Journal 50:127-132.
2000 Review Essay on “Lisa Rofel’s Other Modernities.” Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 32(3):61-4.
Book Chapters
2019 “The Evolution of Funerary Ritual in Urbanizing China” Death Across Cultures: Death and Dying in Non-Western Cultures. Helaine Selin and Robert M. Rakoff eds. Pp 1-17. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
2017 “Adulthood and Youth in a Rapidly Urbanizing Chinese County” Elusive Adulthoods: The Anthropology of New Maturities. Deborah Durham and Jacqueline Solway eds. Pp. 105-126. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
2017 “Urbanisation and the Transformation of Kinship Practice in Shandong” Transforming Patriarchy: Chinese Families in the Twenty-First Century. Gonçalo Santos and Stevan Harrell eds.  Pp. 113-128. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
2013 “Inequality and Equality in Chinese Education” Unequal China: The Political Economy and Cultural Politics of Inequality.  Wanning Sun and Yingjie Guo eds. Pp 111-124. London: Routledge.
2012 “Private Lessons and National Formations” pp 187-203 in Chinese Modernity and the Individual Psyche. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
2012 “Introduction” pp 1-16 in  Chinese Modernity and the Individual Psyche. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
2009 “Neoliberalism” In Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, 2nd ed. Alan Barnard and Jonathan Spencer eds. Pp.503-504, London: Routledge.
2009 “Education in the People’s Republic of China” The Encyclopedia of Child Labour Hugh Hindman ed. Pp. 867-870, Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.
2008 变化着的邹平 in 乡土中国的变迁美国学者在邹平的社会研究, edited by 王兆成济南:山东人民出版社, 130-136.
2008 “Education and the Governing of Child-centred Relatedness” In Chinese Kinship: Contemporary Anthropological Perspectives Goncalo Duro dos Santos and Susanne Brandtstadter eds. Pp. 204-222, London: Routledge.
2008 “Competition, Audit, Scientism and School Non-Choice in Rural China” In The Globalisation of School Choice?  Martin Forsey, Scott Davies, and Geoffrey Walford eds. Pp. 165-183, Oxford: Symposium Books
2002 “Practices of Guanxi Production and Practices of Ganqing Avoidance” In Social Connections in China: Institutions, Culture and the Changing Nature of Guanxi Tom Gold, Doug Guthrie, and David Wank eds. pp. 21-34, New York: Cambridge U. Press.  Translated into Chinese and published in the journal Dongyue Luntan 2012:74-82.
2002 “Beijing” In The Encyclopedia of Urban Cultures: Cities and Cultures around the World Melvin and Carol R. Ember eds. pp. 317-325, Danbury, CT: Grolier.
1995 with Dorothy Holland “American Cultural Models of Embarrassment: The Not-So-Egocentric Self Laid Bare.” In Everyday Conceptions of Emotion: An Introduction To The Psychology, Anthropology and Linguistics of Emotion, J.A. Russell, J. Fernandez-Dols, A.S.R. Manstead and J.C. Wellencamp eds. pp. 181-202. London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
1994 “Reinventing Li: Kowtow and Subjectification in Rural Shandong” In Body, Subject and Power in China, Angela Zito and Tani Barlow eds. pp. 201-223. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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