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John Osburg


PhD, University of Chicago, 2008

MA, University of Chicago, 2001

BA, Columbia University, 1997

Research Interests

Professor Osburg’s research is broadly concerned with the relationship between market economies and systems of cultural value, affect, and morality. From 2003 to 2006, he conducted ethnographic fieldwork with a group of wealthy entrepreneurs in southwest China, examining practices of network building and deal making between businesspeople and government officials. Networks of elite entrepreneurs and state officials have exerted increasing dominance over many aspects of Chinese commerce and politics since the start of economic reforms in the late 70’s. Prof. Osburg examined how these networks were forged and maintained through ritualized entertaining and the informal moral codes through which they operated. His book, Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality among China’s New Rich, examines the rise of elite networks in China and documents the changing values, lifestyles, and consumption habits of China’s new rich and new middle classes. His research also examines changing gender relations in Post-Mao China and the ways in which money and material wealth intersect with ideologies of love and feelings in people’s social, marital, and romantic relationships. His other research interests include consumer culture, political corruption, post-socialism, and organized crime.

Anxious Wealth Cover

Prof. Osburg’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the Social Science Research Council, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Prior to coming to Rochester, Professor Osburg was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Chinese Studies at Stanford University. While conducting his field research in China, he endured a brief stint as the co-host of a variety show on a provincial television station.

Courses Offered (subject to change)

2015-2016 Courses

Selected Publications