Paul Steven Sangren

Hu Shih Distinguished Professor Emeritus


Professor Sangren is a socio-cultural anthropologist whose research focuses on Taiwan and China.His earliest published work combines insights drawn from structuralist theory with practice-oriented critiques to illuminate Chinese ritual processes and cosmological symbols.History and Magical Power in a Chinese Community (Stanford), argues that notions of magical power (靈ling) attributed to supernatural entities embody an implicit ideology of social production and an explicit modality of local historical experience.Chinese Sociologics (Athlone) extends this earlier work's primarily Marxian and Durkheimian focus on collective institutions and representations to accommodate individual agency and desire -- particularly in the arena of Chinese family and gender.Linking individual experience to social processes, the book argues that symbolic alienation – representations that invert the relations between producers and products -- plays an important role in constituting a culturally particular "mode of production of desire."His current project, tentatively entitled Filial Obsessions, is a broadly framed analysis and critique of Chinese patriliny, mythic narrative, and gender ideology informed by a synthesis of Marxian and psychoanalytic perspectives.

Drawing from the theoretical framings of his work on Chinese culture, Professor Sangren has pursued in addition a series of critiques of anthropology's claims to foster heightened cultural self-consciousness or "reflexivity."In addition to teaching courses on the anthropology of China, in recent years he has offered courses on "Sport," "Ideology and Social Reproduction," "Anthropology and Psychoanalysis," and the department's required graduate and undergraduate courses on anthropological theory.


Academic Articles

2013 The Chinese family as instituted fantasy: or, rescuing kinship imaginaries from the ‘symbolic'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19(2):279-299.

2012 Fate, Agency, and the Economy of Desire in Chinese Ritual and Society. Social Analysis 56(2):117-135.

2010 Lessons for General Social Theory in the Legacy of G. William Skinner from the Perspectives of Gregory Bateson and Terence Turner. Taiwan Journal of Anthropology 8(1):47-64.

2009 'Masculine Domination': Desire and Chinese Patriliny. Critique of Anthropology 29(3):255-278.

2007 Anthropology of Anthropology? Further Reflections on Reflexivity. Anthropology Today 23(4):13-16.

2006 Introduction to Turner Special Issue. Critique of Anthropology 26(1):5-13.

2006 ‘Fraught with Implications’, or Turner’s Back-burner. Critique of Anthropology 26(1):121-130.

2004 Psychoanalysis and Its Resistances in Michel Foucault's The History of Sexuality: Lessons for Anthropology. Ethos 32(1):110-122.

2001 China: Sociocultural Aspects. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. N. K. Smelser and P. B. Baltes, eds. 3:1:1733-1738. Elsevier Ltd.


2009 Chinese Ghosts: Reconciling Psychoanalytic, Structuralist, and Marxian Perspectives. In Rethinking Ghosts in World Religions. Poo, Mu-chou, ed. Pp 299-310. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.

2005 Fate and Transcendence in the Rhetoric of Myth and Ritual. In The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment, and Fate in Chinese Culture. Christopher Lupke, ed. Pp. 225-244. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press.

2003 Separations, Autonomy, and Recognition in the Production of Gender Differences: Reflections from Consideration of Myths and Laments. In Living with Separation in China: Anthropological Accounts. Charles Stafford, ed. Pp. 53-84. London: RoutledgeCurzon.


2017 Filial Obsessions:  Chinese Patriliny and Its Discontents.  Palgrave Macmillan.

2000 Chinese Sociologics: An Anthropological Account of Alienation and Social Reproduction. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

1997 Myth, Gender, and Subjectivity. Hsin Chu Bank Endowed Lecture Series on Thought and Culture. The Program for Research of Intellectual-Cultural History, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Tsing Hua University, Hsin-chu, Taiwan: R.O.C.

1987 History and Magical Power in a Chinese Community. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.


ANTHR Courses - Spring 2024