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Anthropology Department Faculty

John Osburg

John Osburg

  • Associate Professor

PhD, University of Chicago, 2008

436 Lattimore Hall
(585) 273-3329
Fax: (585) 273-5331

Office Hours: Wednesdays 10:00 AM - Noon

Research Overview

Professor Osburg’s research is broadly concerned with the relationship between market economies and systems of cultural value, affect, and morality. From 2003 to 2006, he conducted ethnographic fieldwork with a group of wealthy entrepreneurs in southwest China, examining practices of network building and deal making between businesspeople and government officials. Networks of elite entrepreneurs and state officials have exerted increasing dominance over many aspects of Chinese commerce and politics since the start of economic reforms in the late 70’s. Prof. Osburg examined how these networks were forged and maintained through ritualized entertaining and the informal moral codes through which they operated. His book, Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality among China’s New Rich, examines the rise of elite networks in China and documents the changing values, lifestyles, and consumption habits of China’s new rich and new middle classes. His research also examines changing gender relations in Post-Mao China and the ways in which money and material wealth intersect with ideologies of love and feelings in people’s social, marital, and romantic relationships. His other research interests include consumer culture, political corruption, post-socialism, and organized crime.

Anxious Wealth Cover

Prof. Osburg’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the Social Science Research Council, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Prior to coming to Rochester, Professor Osburg was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Chinese Studies at Stanford University. While conducting his field research in China, he endured a brief stint as the co-host of a variety show on a provincial television station.

Selected Publications



  • 2017 “The Ups and Downs of ‘Studying Up’: Fieldnote on Researching Elites.” In Undertaking Research in Global Development: Fieldwork Issues, Experiences and Reflections. Ed. by Gordon Crawford et al. Sage Publishing
  • 2016 “Pleasure, Patronage, and Responsibility: Sexuality and Status Among New Rich Men in Contemporary China.” The Cultural Politics of Gender and Sexuality in Asia. Ed. by Tiantian Zheng. University of Hawaii Press
  • 2016 “Corruption, Masculinity, and Jianghu Ideology in the PRC” In Changing Chinese Masculinities: From Imperial Pillars of State to Global Real Men. Ed. by Kam Louie. University of Hong Kong Press
  • 2016 “El Lujo y Sus Malestares en la China Contemporánea [Luxury and Its Discontents in Contemporary China].” Etnografías Contemporáneas 2(2): 52-72
  • 2015. "Morality and Cynicism in a Grey World." In Irony, Cynicism, and the Chinese State. Edited by Hans Steinmüller and Susanne Brandtstäter. Routledge.
  • 2014. “Can’t Buy Me Love: China’s New Rich and Its Crisis of Values.” Foreign Affairs. September/October 2014: 144-149.
  • 2013. "Meeting the 'Godfather': Fieldwork and Ethnographic Seduction in a Chinese Nightclub." PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. Vol. 36, No. 2
  • 2013. "Global Capitalisms in Asia: Beyond State and Market in China." The Journal of Asian Studies. Vol. 72, No. 4


  • ANT 246: Anthropological Approaches to Gender and Sexuality
  • ANT 257: Chinese Society After Mao
  • ANT 101: Intro to Anthropology
  • ANT 201: Theory and Method in Anthropology


  • Fellow, Public Intellectuals Program, National Committee on United States-China Relations, 2016-2018
  • Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS China Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2014-2015