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Gareth Fisher

Gareth Fisher

Gareth Fisher

Associate Professor


505 Hall of Languages
Office: 315.443.5914


Asian-Asian American Studies
Chinese Studies
South Asian Studies


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Virginia (2006)
  • M.A., Religion, Columbia University (1995)
  • B.A., Religious Studies, Grinnell College (1994)

Courses Taught

  • REL 186 Buddhism
  • REL 221 Morality and Community
  • REL 381 Ghosts and Ghostbusters
  • REL 385 Religion in Chinese Society
  • REL 698 The Anthropology of Religion
  • HNR 360 Self and Society in Contemporary China
Research and Teaching Interests

Professor Fisher joined the faculty in August, 2008. His work focuses on the revival of lay Buddhism in contemporary mainland China where he has conducted ethnographic research for two decades. Fisher’s research interests include examining how new converts brought up under the influence of communism become attracted to Buddhist teachings and exploring the cultural politics surrounding the restoration of Buddhist temples in the post-Mao period. He is the recipient of two Fulbright awards and has received research fellowships at Yale University and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Gōttingen, Germany.

  • Associate Professor, Department of Religion, Syracuse University, 2014-present.
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Religion, Syracuse University, 2008-2014.
  • Visiting Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Richmond, 2007-08.
  • Postdoctoral Associate, Council on East Asian Studies, Yale University, 2006-07.
  • Instructor, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia, 2005.
Recent Articles
  • “From Temples to Teahouses: Exploring the Evolution of Lay Buddhism in Post-Mao China.” Review of Religion and Chinese Society (7:1, 2020).
  • “Lay Buddhists and Moral Activism in Contemporary China.” Review of Religion and Chinese Society (4:2, 2017).
  • "Religion as Repertoire: Resourcing the Past in a Beijing Buddhist Temple." Modern China (38:3, 2012).
  • "In the Footsteps of the Tourists: Buddhist Revival at Museum-Temple Sites in Beijing." Social Compass (58:4, 2011).
  • "The Spiritual Land Rush: Merit and Morality in New Chinese Buddhist Temple Construction." The Journal of Asian Studies (67:1, 2008).
Recent Presentations
  • “Morality, Meditation, and Magic: The Changing Face of Lay Buddhism in China Today.” Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Lecture in Chinese Buddhism, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (2021).
  • “Buddhist Religious Activity Sites: The Evolution of State-Controlled Religious Space in China.” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting (2020).
  • “Mapping the Sacred in a Secular Land: The Emergence of Buddhist Tourism in China.” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting (2019).
  • “Temples and Teahouses: Changing Dimensions of Buddhist Sociality in Xi Jinping’s China.” Center for Religious Studies, Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany (2018).
  • “The Evolution of a Buddhist Public Sphere under Urban Change in Beijing, 1972-2017.” Symposium on Chinese Religions in the Age of Massive Urbanization. Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. Gottingen, Germany (2018).
  • “The Buddhist Public Sphere and State-led Desecularization.” Workshop on Secularization, Desecularization and the Buddhist Public Sphere.” Centre for Contemporary Buddhist Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark (2018).
  • “Mindful Buddhists: Global Flows, Cosmopolitan Identities, and Political (Re)Negotiation in Contemporary Urban China.” Conference on the Rise of Religions in Asia, Boston University (2018).
  • “Mindful China: How Chinese Zen Traveled around the World and Came Back Again.” Department of Religious Studies, St. Mary’s University, Halifax, NS, Canada (2017).