Angela Zito

Associate Professor of Anthropology, Religious Studies;
Co-director of the Center for Religion and Media
Religious Studies Program
Associate Faculty Cinema Studies

Ph.D. Chicago 1989.

Office Address: Religious Studies Program, 726 Broadway Rm 560


Phone: 212-992-9656

Fax: 212-995-4827

Personal Website

Curriculum Vitae

Areas of Research/Interest

Cultural history/historical anthropology; critical theories of religion; religions of China; religion and media; history and anthropology of embodiment; gender; performance and subjectivity; documentary film.

Affiliated with other departments or programs

Co-director of the Center for Religion and Media
Religious Studies Program
Associate Faculty Cinema Studies

External Affiliations

Association for Asian Studies, China and Inner Asia Council; American Academy of Religion, section on Critical Theories and Discourses of Religion; American Anthropological Association; American Ethnological Society.


Henry R. Luce Foundation initiative on Religion and International Affairs grant for September 2011-May 2014. The Pew Charitable Trusts grant for $3 million to co-found with Faye Ginsburg the Center for Religion and Media at NYU in 2003; Chiang-ching Kuo Foundation post-doctoral fellowship, 1997; Gladys Brookes Teaching Award, Barnard College, 1995; National Endowment for the Humanities summer 1994; National Academy of Sciences – National Committee for Communication with the People's Republic of China post-doctoral fellowship, 1991-92; Social Science Research Foundation grant 1980-82; Committee for Communication with the People's Republic of China, advanced study award 1979-80.

Recipient of the 2013 Arts & Science Golden Dozen Teaching Awards

Selected Publications

“Reading as Watching: What we see and what we get.” positions: asia critique 20.1 (Winter 2012):241-266.

“Body” Material Religion: the Journal of Objects, Art and Belief 7.1 (March 2011):  18-25.

“Culture,”  in David Morgan, ed.  Keywords in Religion, Media and Culture. (Routledge Press,  2008).

"Can television mediate religious experience? The theology of Joan of Arcadia" in Religion: Beyond the Concept, edited by Hent deVries, Fordham University Press, 2007.

"Secularizing the pain of foot-binding in China: Missionary and medical stagings of the universal body" in Journal of the American Academy of Religion 75.1 (March 2007): 1-24.

"Things Chinese" and "This is not a façade" in Making Things Public, edited by Bruno Latour and Peter Wiebel.  (Catalogue for exhibit in the ZKM Center for Art and Media of Karlsruhe, Germany, 2005.)

"Bound to be represented: theorizing/fetishizing footbinding," in Modernity Incarnate: Refiguring Body Politics in China, eds. Larissa Macfarquhar and Fran Martin. University of Hawaii, 2006.

"Purchasing parents in 17th century China” (Zai chiqi shiji Zhongguo mai fumu). In Ming Qing qingyu (Sentiments and Desires in Ming-Qing China), Academi Sinica, Taiwan, 2004.

Of Body and Brush: Grand Sacrifice as Text/Performance in 18th Century China. University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Body, Subject and Power in China, co-edited with Tani Barlow. University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Current News/Projects
Updated January 2014

My current ethnographic project is tentatively entitled “Seeking Significance: Finding yourself in public in Beijing.”
  I am interested in how people transmute time “spent” into forms of social and personal value while simultaneously creating public space as they take up new activities together.  In this way I hope to conjoin some newly emergent senses of the individual with equally new senses of the possibilities of being together with others.  The question of access to the means of cultural production in public is a fascinating one in flux right now in this post-reform era. Various collaborations over the past few years have explored the production of art by local citizens in public spaces. They include a neighborhood photography installation, a performance piece about stiletto shoes and feminine beauty with a fashion house and my work with a community of students studying calligraphy with two teachers in a public park, writing in water on pavement using large sponge-tipped brushes.  This beautiful disappearing Writing in Water (2012, 42 min)  is the subject of my documentary, which has been screened at several universities in the past year and went to the 9th Beijing Independent Film Festival in August 2012.  The Beijing fieldwork places the body and its mediations at the center of its theoretical commitments, continuing this theme as the grounding of my intellectual life. For more on this research and for my papers, visit my website at

Another aspect of public cultural life that I have been researching is Chinese independent documentary film. I have been serving on festival juries  (May 2009 at the 7th Independent Documentary Film Festival in Beijing;  October 2011 at the 8th China Independent Film Festival in Nanjing) in an era of the contraction of public expression.  Our work “offshore” to provide exhibition of these films—in collaboration with Chinese friends--continued with October 2012's Reel China@NYU 6th Independent Film Biennial, which I co-curate with Professor Zhang Zhen of Cinema Studies.   Professor Zhang and I teach regularly a graduate seminar in “New Chinese Documentary Film.”  The festival provides opportunities for our students to see new work and meet filmmakers from China as well. Our co-edited collection of essays on Chinese independent documentary's digital entitled "DV-Made China: Digital Subjects and Social Transformation" is under review.

As Director of Religious Studies, I have been working to create a location for studying religion and social life in a world drawn together in new ways through global capital and media networks.  I continue to co-direct (with Faye Ginsburg) the Center for Religion and Media at NYU—visit our website to find our Spring 2013 programming.  In September 2011, we inaugurated a new theme:  “Digital Religion: Knowledge, Politics  and Practice” thanks to a two-year grant from the Henry R. Luce Foundation.  This grant funded a special channel at “The Revealer” , the center’s web magazine, called “In the World,” which is dedicated to religion and media issues outside (but not out of reach of) the U.S. We held a third international conference on the theme in September 2013. "RELIGION IN THE DIGITAL AGE II: Meditating 'The Human' in a Globalizing Asia"

As a member of the Anthropology Department, I encourage students interested in religion to join me and my colleagues in Religious Studies for either an undergraduate course or the graduate seminar, “Theories and Methods for the Study of Religion,” which I teach nearly every fall.  We all look forward to another year of exciting public programming at the Center, lectures in our department and, of course, teaching and research!

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