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Xiaobo Yuan

Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Religion

As an anthropologist of religion, Professor Yuan explores the contemporary development of Protestant Christianity in mainland China, with a particular focus on the lived experiences of urban communities of worshippers and their entanglements with national and local state, economic, and cultural forces. In her research, she is interested in how religious communities produce and sustain visions of flourishing, futurity, and social transformation. Bridging the Anthropology and Religion departments at Whitman, Professor Yuan’s courses span a number of areas—from survey courses on global Christianity and contemporary China, to seminars on affect and emotion, food and religion, and religion and capitalism—that allow students to explore the intersections between religion, everyday life, and global structures of power and resistance. Prior to coming to Whitman, professor Yuan taught at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, and earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Chicago.

Ph.D. Anthropology
University of Chicago 

M.A. Anthropology 
University of Chicago 

B.A. Anthropology and English 
Johns Hopkins University

Professor Yuan’s current research centers on the emergence of Christian urbanisms — styles of urban worship, dwelling, sociality, and education — among Protestant churches based in Chinese cities. She is developing a book manuscript, based on long-term ethnographic research in the Yangtze River Delta’s “global city cluster,” that examines diverse Christian groups as both objects and agents of urbanization. Professor Yuan’s other research interests include Chinese projects of missionization in the Global South, Christianity’s influence on contemporary literature and visual arts in China, and Chinese Christian imaginations of ecological crisis and the temporality of climate change.

2021 “Refusing Educational Desire: Negotiating Faith and Precarity at an Underground Chinese Christian School.” Asian Anthropology 20(3): 190-209.

2021 “Gendering Heterodoxy: The Corporeal Politics of Xiejiao in Chinese Christianity.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 89 (1): 174–203. 

Forthcoming. “Infernal Affect: Christianity, Class, and Economic Anxiety in Urban China,” Neoliberalism and Religion in Global Context roundtable, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Review of Beijing from Below: Stories of Marginal Lives in the Capital's Center, by Harriet Evans (Duke University Press, 2020) in American Ethnologist.

Converting China: Urban Christianity and the Politics of Flourishing, book manuscript in preparation

2020 Louis B. Perry Award for Faculty-Student Summer Research, Whitman College

2015-16 Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

2014-15 Martin Marty Center Junior Fellowship, Divinity School, University of Chicago

2014 Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

2013 U.S. Fulbright Institute of International Education (IIE) Grant

2012 Roy D. Albert Prize for Best MA Essay in Anthropology, University of Chicago

2010 University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies Pre-Dissertation Grant

2009 Title VI Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Grant (summer)

2008-13 University of Chicago Social Science Graduate Fellowship (five-year)

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