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Tanya Marie Luhrmann


Tanya Marie Luhrmann

Ph.D. Cambridge, 1986
Research Interests: 
Medical and psychological anthropology, the anthropology of religion, subjectivity, comparative phenomenology, voices and visions, psychosis, spirituality, mixed methods, public anthropology


Tanya Marie Luhrmann is the Watkins University Professor in the Stanford Anthropology Department. Her work focuses on the edge of experience: on voices, visions, the world of the supernatural and the world of psychosis. She has done ethnography on the streets of Chicago with homeless and psychotic women, and worked with people who hear voices in Chennai, Accra and the South Bay. She has also done fieldwork with evangelical Christians who seek to hear God speak back, with Zoroastrians who set out to create a more mystical faith, and with people who practice magic. She uses a combination of ethnographic and experimental methods to understand the phenomenology of unusual sensory experiences, the way they are shaped by ideas about minds and persons, and what we can learn from this social shaping that can help us to help those whose voices are distressing.

She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003 and received a John Guggenheim Fellowship award in 2007.When God Talks Back was named a NYT Notable Book of the Year and a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year. Her new book, Our Most Troubling Madness: Schizophrenia and Culture, will be published by the University of California Press in 2016.

Selected Articles

2004: ‘Metakinesis: how God becomes intimate in contemporary US Christianity.’ American Anthropologist. 106(3): 518-528. [reprinted in Clare Boulanger, ed. Reflecting on America, in press; also in Jane Adams, ed. America's Diverse Cultures]

2005: ‘The art of hearing God: absorption, dissociation and contemporary American spirituality.’ Spiritus: a Journal of Christian Spirituality 5(2): 133-157. [pre-printed as the John Nuveen lecture ‘Trauma, trance and God: how the new style in American religion might be changing the psychiatric symptoms of trauma.’ Criterion Spring 2004: 2-12.]

2006: ‘Subjectivity’. Anthropological Theory 6(3): 345-361 (September).

2007: ‘Social Defeat Social defeat and the culture of chronicity: or, why schizophrenia does so well over there and so badly here.’ Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. June. 31: 135-172.

2008: ‘The street will drive you crazy:’ why homeless psychotic women in the institutional circuit in the United States often say no to offers of help. American Journal of Psychiatry 15: 15-20; pre-printed (a mark of importance) American Journal of Psychiatry in Advance December 17 2007 p 1-6.

2010: ‘The Absorption hypothesis: hearing God in evangelical Christianity.’ With Howard Nusbaum and Ronald Thisted. American Anthropologist. March. 112(1): 6-78.

2010. ‘Down and Out in Chicago.’ Raritan, Winter 2010 pp 140-166.

2011: ‘Hallucinations and sensory overrides.’ Annual Review of Anthropology. Vol. 40:71-85.

2012: Julia Cassaniti and T.M. Luhrmann, ‘Encountering the supernatural: A phenomenological account of mind.’ Religion and Society. 2: 37-53.

2012: Jocelyn Marrow and T.M. Luhrmann, ‘The Zone of Social Abandonment in Cultural Geography: On the Street in the United States, inside the Family in India.’ Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. 36: 493-513.

2012: ‘Living with Voices.’ American Scholar. Summer: 49-60. [reprinted in Current—Required Reading Recommended by Leading Opinion Makers]

2012: ‘Beyond the brain.’ Wilson Quarterly. Summer: 28-34. Sidney Award for best magazine articles, awarded by David Brooks and announced in the New York Times OpEd, December 28, 2012 [reprinted in Utne Reader, and Current—Required Reading Recommended by Leading Opinion Makers]

2012: ‘A hyper-real God and modern belief: towards an anthropological theory of mind.’ Current Anthropology 53(4): 371-395.

2012: T.M. Luhrmann, and Rachel Morgain ‘Prayer as inner sense cultivation.’ Ethos. 40(4): 359-389.

2013: “Blinded by the right? How the hippie Christians begat the evangelical movement.” Harpers Magazine. April. Pp. 39-44.

2013: ‘Lord, teach us to pray: prayer affects cognitive processing.’ With Howard Nusbaum and Ron Thisted. Journal of Cognition and Culture 13: 159-177.