Gareth Fisher

Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Religion

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 more than a decade. 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.


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


REL 186 Buddhism
REL 221 Morality and Community
REL 385 Religion in Chinese Society


  • 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.


  • From Comrades to Bodhisattvas: Moral Dimensions of Lay Buddhist Practice in Contemporary China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2014.
  • "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).
  • "Morality Books and the Re-Growth of Lay Buddhism in China." In Religion in Contemporary China: Tradition and Innovation. Adam Yuet Chau, ed. New York: Routledge Press, 2011.
  • "The Spiritual Land Rush: Merit and Morality in New Chinese Buddhist Temple Construction." The Journal of Asian Studies (67:1, 2008).

Recent Presentations

  • "The Buddha as Bully? The Politics of Displacement in Chinese Buddhist Revival." Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA (2013).
  • "Underground Temples? Exploring the Expansion of Lay Buddhist Spaces in 2010s Beijing." Workshop on Chinese Religions, East Asia Fairbank Center, Harvard University (2012).
  • "(Dis)organized Chaos: Religious Pluralism at a Beijing Buddhist Temple." Claire M. Linthihac Lecture in Asian Studies, University of Vermont (2012).
  • "All the Books in Indra's Net: Textual Communities and Buddhist Religious Diversity in Contemporary China." Confucius Institute, University of Leipzig, Germany (2012).
  • "Do Chinese Buddhist Laypersons need Monastics? Exploring the Dynamic of Sangha-Laity Relations in Contemporary China." American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL (2012).
  • "Buddhism in Contemporary China: The Re-enchantment of a Modern Society." Institute for Anthropology, Peking University, Beijing, China (2010).
  • "Joining Fates: Buddhist Exchange in Globalizing China." American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA (2010).