John Shepherd

John Shepherd

Dept of Anthropology

Brooks Hall, 303


  • Bachelor of Arts (BA), Stanford University
  • Master of Arts (MA), Stanford University
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Stanford University
  • Doctor of Law (JD), University of California System: Berkeley

Research Interests

My research applies my interest in historical dynamics, political economy, and conflict theories of society to issues in Chinese society at both the macro level of empire and region and at the micro level of marriage, gender, and domestic groups. I am concerned with research design, and the critical examination and testing of competing hypotheses, even those labeled as "interpretations."

In conducting my dissertation fieldwork I became aware that the role of Taiwan's non-Han aboriginal groups was a neglected chapter in the history of Taiwanese society. This led to two streams of research, one on the ethnographic history of the Siraya, and the other, represented in my book, Statecraft and Political Economy on the Taiwan Frontier, 1600-1800. This is a historical-anthropological analysis of how trade networks and commercial agriculture drew Chinese settlers to the Taiwan frontier, and how the late imperial Chinese state acted to mediate relations between settlers and aborigines, extract revenues, and further its strategic interests in the island.

My interest in Chinese frontier statecraft and the historical interaction of Han and non-Han cultures has led to work on the historical ethnography of the Siraya. Since the seventeenth century the Siraya have adapted to Taiwanese society through intermarriage and cultural transformation, but they have also retained a sense of a separate identity. I am writing a series of essays based on fieldwork and the ethnographic descriptions of the Siraya that survive from every century from the seventeenth to the twentieth.

I am currently researching demographic parameters of marriage strategies in Chinese society. Anthropologists have been puzzled by the discovery of a surprising degree of regional variation in the forms of marriage in early twentieth-century Taiwan and have offered a variety of hypotheses to explain this variation. I am challenging these explanations with research that documents how sharply differentiated regional patterns of disease affected sex-differential mortality, the marriage market, and marriage strategies.

Specializations: Historical anthropology, political economy, social organization, marriage and domestic groups, legal anthropology, demographic anthropology, Chinese culture and society, Taiwanese aboriginal culture and society.


  • Marriage, Mortality and Fertility
  • Chinese Family and Religion
  • Marriage, Gender, and Political Economy
  • China: Empire and Nationalities
  • Social Organization
  • Ethnographic Writing and Data Analysis

Selected Awards and Grants

  • National Resource Centers
    • Project Sponsored By: U.S. Department of Education - Post Secondary Ed.
    • 08/15/2010 - 08/14/2014
    • Award Amount: $233,421.00
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
    • Project Sponsored By: U.S. Department of Education - Post Secondary Ed.
    • 08/15/2010 - 08/14/2014
    • Award Amount: $496,500.00