Nanlai CAO


Anthropology, Renmin University, China

Nanlai CAO

Octobre à Décembre 2017


Nanlai Cao is Associate Professor of religious studies at Renmin University of China. After graduating from Beijing University with a degree in sociology, he trained as a sociologist of religion at Fordham University in the USA and then did his PhD in anthropology at the Australian National University. He currently serves as an editorial board member of Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review (Oxford UP) and a council member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. His areas of research interest include anthropology and sociology of religion, transnational migration and urban ethnography. His recent field research projects explore the complex religious dynamics of globalisation with a focus on transnational religious and trading networks that connect China to the outside world. Nanlai Cao is the author of Constructing China’s Jerusalem: Christians, Power, and Place in Contemporary Wenzhou and co-editor of Religion and Mobility in a Globalizing Asia: New Ethnographic Explorations. His new book project explores the life and faith of recent Chinese immigrants to Europe.

Search project

Religion, Trade and Locality in a Chinese Diaspora in France

China, as a material entity and a cultural and political experience, transcends local, regional and national boundaries. This study examines the business and religious lives of diasporic Wenzhou merchants at a time when China’s likely role in the global market economy is compelling. China’s political economy today is characterised by the continued significance of the state, moral contingencies, and aggressive business outreach. In the last three decades Wenzhou merchants have prospered through skilfully negotiating with the state and through production and trade. Their businesses have spread in China and across the globe. However, the cultural resources they have used to accumulate initial capital and sustained their business networks remain understudied. The research focuses on a group of Wenzhou merchants who have formed large Christian communities at home, along with migrant enclaves in France. It will explore their transnational business practices as well as how they (re)construct moral and native-place identities through the idiom of Christianity.


CAO, Nanlai. “Spatial Modernity, Party Building, and Local Governance: Putting the Christian Cross-removal Campaign in Context”, The China Review 17 (1) (2017): 29-52.

CAO, Nanlai. “Renegotiating Locality and Morality in a Chinese Religious Diaspora: Wenzhou Christian Merchants in Paris, France” The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 14(1) (2013): 85-101.

CAO, Nanlai. Constructing China’s Jerusalem: Christians, Power, and Place in Contemporary Wenzhou. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011, 232 p.

CAO, Nanlai. Raising the Quality of Belief: Suzhi and the Production of an Elite Protestantism. China Perspectives/Perspectives chinoises (in English and French) 4 (2009): 54-65.

CAO, Nanlai. “The Church as a Surrogate Family for Working Class Immigrant Chinese Youth: An Ethnography of Segmented Assimilation ”, Sociology of Religion 66 (2) (2005): 183-200.