Robert Shepherd

Robert Shepherd in Germany, 2014
Visiting Associate Professor of International Affairs and Anthropology
1957 E St. 503-Q
[email protected]

Areas of Expertise

Anthropology of development, cultural heritage, human rights, contemporary China.

Robert Shepherd is a Visiting Professor of International Affairs and Anthropology at the Elliott School of International Affairs, where he teaches courses on human rights & ethics, international development, contemporary China, and the anthropology of environmentalism. In a previous career he served for seven years as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer, first in Nepal (September 1985- January 1988); followed by China (on assignment to the United Nations Volunteer Program, September 1989- June 1992); and Indonesia (on assignment to the United Nations Volunteer Program, August 1994 – July 1996).

In addition to his research and teaching, he is the China & Taiwan Course Coordinator for the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute, a lecturer for the Smithsonian Journeys travel program, and Editor of the journal, Critical Asian Studies.


To see Dr. Shepherd's complete CV, click here.

Current Research

Dr. Shepherd has studied the political, economic, and social effects of cultural heritage policies in China, the relationship between anthropology, tourism, and heritage in Bali and Tibet, and the role of social relationships and community norms among street vendors in Washington, DC.

Ongoing Projects

  • Cosmopolitanism as theory and ideology, in tourism studies: what does a "worldly" consciousness mean to people situated in different cultural landscapes and to what extent might these intersect with liberal cosmopolitanism?
  • A study of the ways in which the language of choice is used in cross-cultural debates about human rights and how this intersects with neoliberal notions that define freedom in terms of market choice.
  • The links between human rights campaigns, environmentalism, and the world heritage movement as examples of transnational regimes of truth.



Ph.D. 2002, George Mason University
M.A. 1983, Northeastern University
B.A. 1980, University of Delaware


Books and Audiobooks

2013  Shepherd, R., and L. Yu. Heritage Management, Tourism, and Governance in China: Managing the Past to Serve the Present. Springer Press.

2012  Shepherd, R. Faith in Heritage: Displacement, Development, and Religious Tourism in Contemporary China. Walnut Creek CA: Left Coast Press.

2012  Shepherd, R. Partners in Paradise: Tourism Practices, Heritage Policies, and Anthropological Sites. Asian Thought and Culture Series, vol. 69. New York: Peter Lang.

2010  Shepherd, R. The People’s Dynasty: Culture and Society in Modern China. New York: Modern Scholar Audio Books.

2007  Shepherd, R. When Culture Goes to Market: Space, Place, and Identity in an Urban Marketplace. New York: Peter Lang.

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

2016  Shepherd, R. “Cosmopolitanism nationalism and the heritage of shame: Comfort women memorials and the legacy of slavery in the United States," International Journal of Cultural Policy pub. online Nov. 13.

2014  Shepherd, R. “My heritage, your heritage, or the world’s heritage? Anthropological interventions in a nebulous field,” Anthropology News, March 7.

2014  Shepherd, R.  “Cultural heritage preservation and world heritage in China.” In Smith, C., ed., Encyclopedia of Global Archeology. New York: Springer Press.

2012  Shepherd, R. "Shaping heritage to serve development: bureaucratic conflict and local agency at two Chinese heritage sites." In S. Lyon & C. Wells, eds., Global Tourism: Cultural Heritage and Economic Encounters. Lanham, MD: Alta Mira Press, 61-80.

2009  Shepherd, R. "I bought this at Eastern Market: Vending, value and social relations in an urban street market." In D. Wood, ed., Economic Development, Integration, and Morality in Asia and the Americas. Research in Economic Anthropology, Volume 29. London: Emerald Publishing, 381-406.

2009  Shepherd, R. "Cultural heritage, UNESCO, and the Chinese state: Whose heritage and for whom?," Heritage Management 2(1): 55-79.

2008  Shepherd, R. "Cultural preservation, tourism, and 'donkey travel' on China's frontier." In T.C. Chang, P. Teo, and T. Winter, eds., Asia on Tour: The Rise of the Asian Tourist. London: Routledge Press, 253-263.

2007  Shepherd, R. "A perpetual unease or being at ease? Daoism, Derrida, and the metaphysics of presence," Philosophy East & West 57:2 (April).

2006  Shepherd, R. "UNESCO and the politics of cultural heritage in Tibet," Journal of Contemporary Asia 36(2): 243-257.

2005  Shepherd, R. "Age of the law's end: Falun Gong and the cultivation of modernity in post-Maoist China,"International Journal of Cultural Studies 8(4): 387-404.


Editor, Critical Asian Studies

Board Member, Red Panda Network

Cultural Lecturer, Smithsonian Journeys program

Area Studies Course Coordinator (China), Foreign Studies Institute, U.S. Department of State

Classes Taught

To see syllabi, click on the course title.

Anth 3501: Anthropology of Development
Anth 3513: Anthropology of Human Rights
Anth 3704: Anthropology of Southeast Asia
Anth 3705: East Asian Cultures
Anth 3991: Topics: China's Cultural Frontier
Anth 3991: Topics: Anthropology and Environmentalism
Anth 6302: Topics: Tourism, Heritage, and Development
Honr 1015: Honors Seminar on Chinese Philosophy
Honr 1016: Honors Seminar on Modernity
Honr 2047: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Honr 2048: Human Rights
IAFF 3183:  International Development Theory, Policy, and Practice
IAFF 3190:  Human Rights and Ethics

Last updated June 8, 2017