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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. She is a medical and psychological anthropologist, and also an anthropologist of religion. More recently she describes her work as an anthropology of mind. She sets out to understand the way people represent thought itself, and the way those culturally varied representations shape the most intimate experience of life itself. She asks how the world is made real for people, and how that realness shapes a person’s sense of capacity and purpose. 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 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 last book, Our Most Troubling Madness: Schizophrenia and Culture, was published by the University of California Press. How God Becomes Real will be published by Princeton in 2020.

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]

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.

2009: ‘Uneasy street’ in The Insecure American, ed. Hugh Gusterson and Catherine Besterman. University of California.

2010: Luhrmann, T.M., H. Nusbaum and R. Thisted. ‘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: 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 : Towards an Anthropological Theory of Mind. Position papers from the Lemelson Conference. Includes introduction, individual essay and edited collection. Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Association. 36(4): 5-69.

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.

2014: Julia Cassaniti and T.M. Luhrmann (joint first authors): The cultural kindling of spiritual experiences. Current Anthropology. 55(S10): S333-343. Translated and reprinted as: (2016). Die kulturelle Erweckung spiritueller Erfahrung. Zeitschrift für Anomalistik, 16 (1+2), pp. 81-110.

2015: Luhrmann, T.M., R. Padmavati, H. Tharoor, and A. Osei. Differences in voice-hearing associated with psychosis in Accra, Chennai and San Mateo. British Journal of Psychiatry. 206(1): 41-4. Epub. 2014 Jun 26.

2015: Jones, Nev and T.M. Luhrmann. “Beyond the sensory: Findings from an indepth analysis of the phenomenology of “auditory hallucinations” in psychosis.” Psychosis 8(3): 191-202.

2017: “Diversity within the psychotic continuum.” Schizophrenia Bulletin. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbw137 43(1): 27-31.

2018: “Prayer as metacognitive activity.” In Metacognitive diversity, ed. Martin Fortier, Joelle Proust, Oxford University Press. Pp 297-318.

2018: “The real ontological challenge.” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 8 (1): 000–000

2018: “The Sounds of Madness” Harpers Magazine June.

2020: M. Lifshitz, J. Brahinsky, and T.M. Luhrmann. The understudied side of contemplation: Words, images and intentions in a syncretic spiritual practice. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis