Aihwa Ong

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Aihwa Ong

Professor, Robert H. Lowie Distinguished Chair in Anthropology |Sociocultural Anthropology
317 Kroeber
Office Hours
Mon. 10:30am - 12:30pm

Current/Future Courses

Comparative Society 

Fall 2017 |Undergraduate

Anthropology of Globalization

Spring 2017 |Graduate

The New Humanitarianism

Spring 2016 |Undergraduate

Special Interests

Science, Technology, & Society; Anthropology of Citizenship, Neoliberalism, Modernity; Contemporary Chinese Art; Selected interests in Southeast Asia, China, and U.S.A.


Aihwa Ong's work has always dealt with the particular entanglements of politics, technology, and culture in rapidly changing situations on the Asia Pacific rim. Currently, her work focuses on regimes of governing, technology, and culture that crystallize new meanings and practices of the human. Her field research shifts between sites in Southeast Asia and China in order to track emerging global centers and biotechnical experiments in East Asian modernity.


As a foreign-born anthropologist, Aihwa Ong has always approached research from vantage points outside or athwart the United States. This angle of inquiry unsettles and troubles stabilized viewpoints and units of analysis in the social sciences.  From her early work on Muslim factory women in Malaysia, to the experiences of migrant Chinese and Cambodian refugees in California; from the selective deployment of neoliberal norms to the rise of biotech projects in Asia, Ong explores how the interaction between global forms and situated politics and cultures shape emerging globalized contexts. 

Ong's inter-disciplinary approach and her ideas -- "flexible citizenship," "graduated sovereignty," "global assemblages," among others _ are featured in debates on globalization and modernity. She has lectured internationally and been invited to the World Economic Forum. Her awards include grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the National Science Foundation, and some book prizes.

On campus, Ong is affiliated with the Blum Center for Developing Economies, Global Metropolitan Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, and  the Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

Representative Publications


Recent Books:

Fungible Life: Uncertainty in the Asian City of Life (Duke University Press, forthcoming)

Asian Biotech: Ethics and Communities of Fate. (co-editor Nancy Chen), Durham: Duke University Press, 2010

Worlding Cities, or the Art of Being Global (co-editor, Ananya Roy), London: Routledge, 2011

Selected Publications:

2015  "Why Singapore Trumps Iceland: Gathering Genes in the Wild," Journal of Cultural Economy, vol. 8, no. 3. 

2013   A Milieu of Mutations: The Pluripotency and Fungibility of Life in Asia, *East Asian Science, Technology and Society* (2013) 7:1–18

2012   Powers of Sovereignty: State, People, Wealth, Life, in *Focaal, Journal of Global & Historical Anthropology*. 62 (2012): 24-35

2012   What Marco Polo Forgot: Asian Art Negotiates the Global, *Current Anthropology* Volume 53, Number 4, August 2012

2011   Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments or the Art of Being Global. Blackwell, 2011

2008   Privatizing China, Socialism from Afar. Cornell University Press (co-editor Li Zhang) 

2008    “The Human and Ethical Living,” In Globalizing the Research Imagination, ed. Jane Kenway and Johannah Fahey, pp.87-100. London: Routledge 

2006, “Neoliberalism as a Mobile Technology,” Transactions 31 (2006) 1-6

2006. “Please Stay: Pied-a-Terre Subjects in the Megacity,” Citizenship Studies Vol. 11, no. 1 (2007): 83-93.

2006. Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty. Durham: Duke University Press.

2006. "Experiments with Freedom: Milieus of the Human."  American Literary History (March 1, 2006).
2004. Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics and Ethics as Anthropological Problems (co-editor Stephen J. Collier). Malden, Ma. and Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.

2004. "The Chinese Axis: Zoning Technologies and Variegated Sovereignty," Journal of East Asian Studies 4 (2004), 69-96.

2003. Buddha in Hiding: Refugees, Citizenship, and the New America (University of California Press, Public Anthropology Series). (Italian translation, 2005.)

2003. "Cyberpublics and Diaspora Politics among Transnational Chinese" Interventions 5(1):82-100.

2003. "Higher Learning: Educational Availability and Flexible Citizenship in Global Space" in Diversity and Citizenship Education, ed. James A. Banks, New York: J. Wiley, pp. 49-70.

2001. Modernity, Anthropological Aspects. In International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, vol. 15. N. J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, eds. Pp. 9944-49. International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Oxford: Pergamon.

2000. Graduated Sovereignty in Southeast Asia. Theory, Culture, and Society. 17(4):55-75.

1999. Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality. Durham: Duke University Press. Honorable Mention, Senior Prize, American Ethnological Association (2000) and Cultural Studies Book Award, Association for Asian American Studies (2001). (German translation, 2004.)

1999. "Muslim Feminists in the Shelter of Corporate Islam," Citizenship Studies Vol. 3, no. 3:355-71.

1997. Ungrounded Empires: The Cultural Politics of Modern Chinese Transnationalism (co-edited with Donald Nonini). New York: Routledge.

1995. Bewitching Women, Pious Men: Gender and Body Politics in Southeast Asia. Michael Peletz (co-editor). Berkeley: University of California Press.

1987. Spirits of Resistance and Capitalist Discipline: Factory Women in Malaysia. Albany: State University of New York Press.



Providing the first overview of Asia’s emerging biosciences landscape, this timely and important collection brings together ethnographic case studies on biotech endeavors such as genetically modified foods in China, clinical trials in India, blood collection in Sing
Fleeing the murderous Pol Pot regime, Cambodian refugees arrive in America as at once the victims and the heroes of America's misadventures in Southeast Asia; and their encounters with American citizenship are contradictory as wel
Few recent phenomena have proved as emblematic of our era, and as little understood, as globalization. Are nation-states being transformed by globalization into a single globalized economy? Do global cultural forces herald a postnational millennium?
From Duke University Press' website: 
Provides an exciting approach to some of the most contentious issues in discussions around globalization—bioscientific research, neoliberalism, governance—from the perspective of the "anthropological" problems they pose; in other words, in terms of their implications for how individual and collective life is subject to technological, political, and ethical reflection and i
Neoliberalism is commonly viewed as an economic doctrine that seeks to limit the scope of government. Some consider it a form of predatory capitalism with adverse effects on the Global South.
Why are Malay women workers periodically seized by spirit possession on the shopfloors of modern factories? In this book, Aihwa Ong captures the disruptions, conflicts, and ambivalences in the lives of Malay women and their families as they make the transition from peasant society to industrial production.
Worlding Cities is the first serious examination of Asian urbanism to highlight the connections between different Asian models and practices of urbanization.