Anna Sun is Associate Professor of Sociology and Asian Studies at Kenyon College. She is the director of the Asian Studies program at Kenyon.

Sun's book Confucianism as a World Religion: Contested Histories and Contemporary Realities (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013) has received two book awards, both in 2014. The first is the Distinguished Book Award of the Sociology of Religion Section of the American Sociological Association, and second is the Best First Book in the History of Religion Award of the American Academy of Religion.

Anna Sun's teaching and research interests include sociology of religion, sociology of knowledge, social theory, and sociology of East Asia. She received her BA in sociology from UC Berkeley, where she studied with Robert Bellah. She received her PhD in sociology from Princeton University in 2008. In 2003-04 she was a Mellon Dissertation Fellow at the Institute for Historical Research at the University of London, and in 2005-06 she was a Marilyn Yarbrough Dissertation Fellow at Kenyon College. In 2010-11 Sun was awarded a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where she completed her book on Confucianism.

Sun has been studying the revival of Confucianism as a religion in contemporary China, as well as the larger conceptual and methodological issues in the study of Asian religions. She was a Co-Principal Investigator in the research project “The Empirical Study of Religions in China,” 2006-2009, funded by the John M. Templeton Foundation.

Sun is currently a Co-Principal Investigator in the Templeton Foundation funded project “The Concept of Fu in Contemporary China: Searching for Well-Being, Purpose, and the Good Life,” 2013-2016. Her collaborators in the project are Becky Hsu, Richard Madsen, and Deborah Davis. They plan to complete the ethnography for the project in the next two years before co-authoring a book modeled after the contemporary sociological classic Habits of the Heart.

In addition to her sociological work, Sun is also a Consulting Editor of The Kenyon Review. Her writing has appeared in Harvard Review (2000), Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship (2000), and The London Review of Books (2004). Sun's latest essay is "The Diseased Language of Mo Yan" in the Kenyon Review (2012). (For debates related to the essay, see Charles Laughlin's article and its Chinese translation, and Perry Link's response.)


Ph.D. Princeton University
M.A. Princeton University
B.A. UC Berkeley


Confucianism as a World Religion: Contested Histories and Contemporary Realities. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2013

Current Research Interests

Revival of Confucianism in contemporary China; the classification of Chinese religions; prayer as spiritual exercise; religion and emotion; religion, politics, and secularism.

Recent Online Publications

2013 "Doing Religion Work in China?," The Immanent Frame, Social Science Research Council

2013 "Notes from the Field: Habits of the Heart in China," ASIANetwork

Recently Quoted in the Media

2014 "Catholic Schools in US Court China's Youth," Kyle Spencer, The New York Times, April 6, 2014

2014 "Confucius Comes Home," Even Osnos, The New Yorker, January 13, 2014

Selected Recent Scholarly Presentations

2014 “The Henotheism of Max Muller,” University of Heidelberg, November 14-15, 2014

2014 “Beyond the Monotheistic Assumption: The Study of Chinese Religions in the Social Sciences,” “Religion and Area Studies Workshop,” Leiden University, September 22-23, 2014

2013 “Confucianism as a World Religion?”
“Asian Religions Consortium” Lecture Series, Rutgers University

2013 “Religion and Area Studies: History and Practice”
Roundtable at Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Religion and Philosophy Network, Leiden University

2011 “The Politics of Confucianism in the 21st Century”
“A Habit of the Heart Conference, in Honor of Robert Bellah,” City University of Hong Kong

2011 “Repaying the Debt of Tears: Religion and Emotion in Dream of the Red Chamber
Mandel Center for the Humanities, Brandeis University

2011 “The Revival of Confucian Rites in Contemporary China”
The Neo-Confucianism Seminar, Columbia University

2011 “The Revival of Confucius Worship: The Renewal and Reinvention of Personal Rites in Confucius Temples”
Association of Asian Studies Annual Meeting, Honolulu

2010 “The Religious Ecology of Confucius Temples”
Symposium “Confucian Revival in Contemporary China: Preliminary Reports from the Field,” Center for Philosophy, University of Tokyo

2009 “Consultation on Prayer and Prayerfulness.”
Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University

2009 “The Revival of Confucianism as a Religion in Contemporary China.”
East Asian Studies, Denison University

2008 “The Cycle of Religious Controversies”
Social Science History Association Annual Meeting, Chicago

2007 “A New Approach to the Classification of Chinese Religions,” Session on “The Nature and Components of Religion”
American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, New York

Courses Taught at Kenyon

SOCY 103 Introduction to Sociology: Society and Culture
SOCY 221 Sociology of Religion: Global Religions in Modern Society
SOCY 249 Knowledge of the Other: Journey to the East
SOCY 361 Classical Social Theory
SOCY 450 French Social Theory
SOCY 465 Sociology of Knowledge
ASIA 490 Public Intellectuals in Comparative Perspective

Selected Academic Services

2013- Editorial Board, Review of Religion and Chinese Society

2014-2015 Vice Chair, Board of Directors of ASIANetwork, a consortium of 160 North American colleges with Asian Studies programs (Chair in 2015-2016)

2008- Consulting Editor, The Kenyon Review

Contact Information

Professor Anna Sun
Department of Sociology
Kenyon College
OH 43022


November 2014

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