Robert André LaFleur

Professor of Anthropology & History
George Russell Corlis Chair in History
Chair of Asian Studies

 Email:  Phone: 608-363-2005  Office: Room 206, Morse-Ingersoll Hall

I was practically born into anthropology. My father is an anthropologist and I grew up thinking of anthropological giants such as Franz Boas and Margaret Mead as uncles and aunts. I came to history later, but quickly saw how relevant it seemed to my passion for anthropology. Since then, intersections between the two disciplines have helped me study the question that interests me most: the nature of change. Theory and methodologies from both disciplines support all of my scholarship and teaching. In 2006, I began to study China’s five sacred mountains by combining fieldwork on them with readings of the texts associated with each peak. That study continues to this day, leading to the writing of volumes devoted to each peak, two of which are in final draft form. I’m also fascinated by translation. How do we translate not only written texts, but culture and history? In this regard, I was fortunate to work with the late Jack Street, Beloit College professor of French and a recipient of the highly prestigious Order of the French Academic Palms, on a translation of a French classic, Marcel Granet’s La pensée chinoise (Chinese Thought). The translation is now in-press.

I integrate history with anthropology in every class I teach. I want students to understand that history offers us a set of problems to wrestle with, while anthropology helps us notice details critical to our understanding of history. I hope my students will take joy in pondering questions, thinking about space and place, and considering what everyday life can teach us.

Beyond my scholarship and teaching, I enjoy music. I love opera, but also country-western music, particularly when I can find connections between the music of greats—Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard—and East Asian poetry. I’m also an avid mountain biker; strong legs and lungs come in handy when I’m climbing China’s sacred mountains for my research!

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