Katherine Swancutt

Katherine Swancutt

I am a Senior Lecturer in the Anthropology of Religion at King’s College London and Director of its Religious and Ethnic Diversity in China and Asia Research Unit (REDCARU).

My area of research is China and Mongolia, where I focus on ‘animistic’ or ‘shamanic’ religions and the ‘anthropology of anthropology’. Having conducted fieldwork on innovative magical practices among Buryat Mongols for over a decade, since 2007 I have expanded my field of study into Southwest China. Currently, my research focuses on dreams, sacred texts and the ethnological research carried out by a Tibeto-Burman group called the Nuosu. I have also conducted fieldwork among the Deed Mongols of northern China.

Some main themes running through my work are the study of the human soul; dreams and fame; innovation; freedom and irony; hospitality and slavery; economies of prestige and value; favours and anti-favours; the nature of challenges and ordeals; pedagogy and virtuosity; joking and the environment; the imagination and materiality; aesthetics and ideas; nostalgia and traditional mediation; reflexivity in fieldwork; and the study of the social sciences within China. I also have long-standing interests in concepts of fortune, luck and fate; the heuristics of time and space; divination; games; conflict and witchcraft; and Buddhism. Lifelong training and ongoing interest in the performing arts, and in ballet dance especially, has informed my work.

I teach on a wide range of topics, with an especial focus on the anthropology of religion and the ethnography of Inner Asia and East Asia.

Katherine Swancutt - Animism Beyond the Soul: Ontology, Reflexivity, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge
Katherine Swancutt - Fortune and the Cursed: The Sliding Scale of Time in Mongolian Divination
Animism Beyond the Soul: Ontology, Reflexivity, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledg
Books
2018 Animism Beyond the Soul: Ontology, Reflexivity, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge. Edited with Mireille Mazard. New York and Oxford: Berghahn. Excerpt available here.
2012 Fortune and the Cursed: The Sliding Scale of Time in Mongolian Divination. New York and Oxford: Berghahn. Excerpt available here.
Edited Journals
2016 ‘Animism Beyond the Soul: Ontology, Reflexivity, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge’. Edited with Mireille Mazard. Social Analysis. 60(1):i-139.
Journal Articles
2016 ‘Introduction - Anthropological Knowledge-Making, the Reflexive Feedback Loop, and Conceptualizations of the Soul’. Co-authored with Mireille Mazard in Social Analysis. 60(1):1-17.
2016 ‘The Art of Capture: Hidden Jokes and the Reinvention of Animistic Ontologies in Southwest China’ in Social Analysis. 60(1):74-91.
2016 ‘Religion through the Looking Glass: Fieldwork, Biography, and Authorship in Southwest China and Beyond’ in Religion and Society: Advances in Research. 7(1):51-67.
2012 ‘The Captive Guest: Spider Webs of Hospitality among the Nuosu of Southwest China’ in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 18(S1):S103-S116.
2012 ‘Fame, Fate-Fortune, and Tokens of Value among the Nuosu of Southwest China’ in Social Analysis. 56(2):56-72.
2008 ‘The Undead Genealogy: Omnipresence, Spirit Perspectives, and a Case of Mongolian Vampirism’ in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 14(4):843-864.
2007 ‘The Ontological Spiral: Virtuosity and Transparency in Mongolian Games’ in Inner Asia. 9(2):237-259.
2006 ‘Representational vs. Conjectural Divination: Innovating out of Nothing in Mongolia’ in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 12(2):331-353.
2006 ‘Fortuna, Sort i Destí a Mongòlia’ (Fortune, Luck and Fate in Mongolia) in Revista d’Ethnologia de Catalunya. 28:70-82.
2001 ‘Sources of Charisma: Ritual, Household Knowledge and Inspiration in Mongolia’ in North Atlantic Studies. 4:39-43.
Book Chapters
2018 ‘Ethnic Minorities and Religion’ in Kevin Latham (ed). Routledge Handbook of Chinese Culture and Society. London and New York: Routledge.
2018 ‘The Anthropological Imaginarium: Crafting Alterity, the Self, and an Ethnographic Film in Southwest China’ in Liana Chua and Nayanika Mathur (eds). Who Are ‘We’?: Reimagining Alterity and Affinity in Anthropology. New York and Oxford: Berghahn. Pp. 95-127.
2018 ‘Introduction - Anthropological Knowledge-Making, the Reflexive Feedback Loop, and Conceptualizations of the Soul’. Co-authored in Katherine Swancutt and Mireille Mazard (eds). Animism Beyond the Soul: Ontology, Reflexivity, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge. New York and Oxford: Berghahn. Pp. 1-17.
2018 ‘The Art of Capture: Hidden Jokes and the Reinvention of Animistic Ontologies in Southwest China’ in Katherine Swancutt and Mireille Mazard (eds). Animism Beyond the Soul: Ontology, Reflexivity, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge. New York and Oxford: Berghahn. Pp. 74-91.
2018 ‘The Return to Slavery? Nostalgia and a New Generation of Escape in Southwest China’. Co-authored with Jiarimuji (嘉日姆几) in James Laidlaw, Barbara Bodenhorn and Martin Holbraad (eds). Recovering the Human Subject: Freedom, Creativity and Decision. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 131-147.
2016 ‘The Anti-Favour: Ideasthesia, Aesthetics, and Obligation in Southwest China’ in David Henig and Nicolette Makovicky (eds). Economies of Favour after Socialism. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Pp. 96-116.
2016 ‘Freedom in Irony and Dreams: Inhabiting the Realms of Ancestors and Opportunities in Southwest China’ in Hans Steinmüller and Susanne Brandtstädter (eds). Irony, Cynicism and the Chinese State. London and New York: Routledge. Pp. 138-154.
2015 ‘Imaginations at War: The Ephemeral and the Fullness of Life in Southwest China’ in Øivind Fuglerud and Leon Wainwright (eds). Objects and Imagination: Perspectives on Materialization and Meaning. New York and Oxford: Berghahn. Pp. 133-159.
2012 ‘Masked Predation, Hierarchy and the Scaling of Extractive Relations in Inner Asia and Beyond’ in Marc Brightman, Vanessa Grotti and Olga Ulturgasheva (eds). Animism in Rainforest and Tundra: Personhood, Animals, Plants and Things in Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia. New York and Oxford: Berghahn. Pp. 175-194.
Book Reviews
2018 Review of Bjørn Thomassen. Liminality and the Modern: Living through the In-Between. London and New York: Routledge, 2016, in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 24(1):217-218.
2014 Review of Manduhai Buyandelger. Tragic Spirits: Shamanism, Memory, and Gender in Contemporary Mongolia. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2013, in Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford. 6(2):218-220.
2014 Review of Rane Willerslev. On the Run in Siberia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012, in Social Analysis. 58(2):140-141.
2014 Review of Andrew Kipnis (ed). Chinese Modernity and the Individual Psyche. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 20(1):182-183.
2012 Review of Esther Eidinow. Luck, Fate and Fortune: Antiquity and Its Legacy. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011, in The Classical Review. 62(1):221-223.
2011 Review of Chuan-kang Shih. Quest for Harmony: the Moso Traditions of Sexual Union and Family Life. Stanford University Press, 2009, in The China Quarterly. 208:1041-1042. [Also translated by Mumei Gui for publication in 世界民族 (World Ethno-National Studies): 评施传刚著《追寻和谐:摩梭传统的性联盟家庭生活》 [英] Katherine Swancutt (苏梦林) 著,桂慕梅 译]
2011 Review of Rebecca M. Empson. Harnessing Fortune: Personhood, Memory, and Place in Mongolia. Oxford University Press, 2011, in Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford. 3(1):107-115.
Films
2016 Co-produced with Jiarimuji (嘉日姆几). 1956. A Briton in the Cool Mountains of China. [Chinese Title: 1956. 一个英国人在凉山, Nuosu Title: 1956. ꑱꇩꊿꂷꆀꎭꃅꈌꇁꊈꂮ]. (68 minutes).
Translations
2011 Chinese-to-English translation of a Nuosu folkloric tale gathered by Xiao Jianhua (肖建华) and Qiu Zhongquan (邱忠泉), titled ‘Yi Shuang Cai Hong (一双彩虹)’ [A Double Rainbow]. Published under my Chinese name of 苏梦林 in Yi Wen (彝文). Yunnan Sheng Shehui Kexueyuan Ninglang Minzu Wenhua Yanjiusuo. 2:30-33.

Languages

Mandarin Chinese; Mongolian; Nuosu (known in Chinese as Liangshan Yiyü and traced to a Tibeto-Burman language family of Southwest China); Russian; some knowledge of other European languages.