Gregory Ruf


Professor Ruf, Associate Professor                

I am a socio-cultural anthropologist with interests that lie at the intersections of culture, history, and ecology, especially the theoretical and methodological issues relating to ethnography. A former Fulbright Research Scholar, I have lived and worked for several years in rural China, mostly in Sichuan and Yunnan.


Raised in upstate New York, I attended SUNY Cortland as an undergraduate and spent a very formative junior year abroad as an exchange student in China. I did my graduate training in ‘four-field’ anthropology at Columbia University, followed by a year at Harvard’s Fairbank Center for East Asian Research on a postdoctoral fellowship. I taught anthropology for several years at Wellesley College, and at Stony Brook I hold a joint appointment with the departments of Cultural Analysis and Theory (CAT), Asian and Asian American Studies (AAS), and Anthropology (ANT).  My service at Stony Brook has included terms as inaugural Faculty Director of the Community Service Learning Program, as inaugural Undergraduate Program Director in Asian & Asian American Studies, and as Director of the China Studies program.

Recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, I have a real passion for education. In CAT, I offer courses on Social & Cultural Theory as well as on Ethnographic Methods and Writing. I also teach a variety of highly acclaimed courses on China through the AAS department (including Ancient China; Family, Marriage, and Kinship in China; Ethnicity and Ecology in China; Environmental History in China; and Revolutionary China).

My first book, Cadres and Kin: Making a Socialist Village in West China, 1921-91 (Stanford, 1998), explored the political economy of kinship and the role of social organization and gender in the formation of a rural community in Sichuan. I am currently finishing work on a new book, focused on a rural market town, that examines the changing tenor of relations between city and countryside in China’s modern development. My new research interests have moved toward environmental history and the cultural ecology of water, both within and beyond China.

More broadly speaking, I have a deep interest in human evolution, the interface of biology and culture, the Neolithic Revolution, early Bronze Age states, and ancient Chinese history and philosophy. My recreational reading tends to concentrate on historical fiction, maritime history, tall ships, and Tolkien. I enjoy creative writing, cooking, kayaking, sailing, and acting in local community theatre productions of the Marion Art Center.

Selected Publications:

• Cadres & Kin: Making a Socialist Village in West China, 1921-91 (Stanford University, 1998)

• “Collective Enterprise and Property Rights in a Sichuan Village: The Rise and Decline of Managerial Corporatism,” in Oi & Walder (eds.), Property Rights and Economic Reform in China (Stanford University, 1999)

• "Reflections of the Field, from the Field," in Liu Xin (ed.), Reflections on the Anthropology of China (Berkeley: University of California, 2004)



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Nancy Hiemstra has been selected to receive the 2014 Graduate and Faculty Research Program in the Arts, Humanities and Lettered Social Sciences.

Robert Harvey has been appointed to the rank of Distinguished Professor.

Izabela Kalinowska-Blackwood is curating a film series at the IWM in Vienna.


Beth Tsai has been selected to receive the 2014 Graduate and Faculty Research Program in the Arts, Humanities and Lettered Social Sciences.

Kudos Newsletter 

July 2014

The Humanities Institute

Cultural Analysis and Theory • Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5355 • Phone: 631.632.7460 • Fax: 631.632.5707