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USC anthropologist Eugene Cooper

Cooper, Eugene

at USC 1980-2015, anthropology

Professor Gene Cooper passed away in fall 2015. Please click here to read our remembrance of him and to see a video of him speaking about his last book.

Contact Information
Professor, Department of Anthropology
Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences


  • Ph. D., Columbia University, Anthropology, 1976
  • M.A., Columbia University, East Asian Studies, 1976
  • B.A., State University of New York at Buffalo, Anthropology, 1968

"Gene" Cooper earned his Ph. D. in Anthropology and East Asian Studies at Columbia University in 1976. He taught at the University of Pittsburgh and Hong Kong University before arriving at USC in 1980. He has consulted with business, industry and the legal profession, on Chinese rural industrial production, the import/export sector, and Chinese habit and custom.

His most recent research is on the market temple fairs of Jinhhua municipality, Zhejiang province, China. Cooper spent the 2006-7 academic year at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ working on a book manuscript on those temple fairs, published in 2012, The Market and Temple Fairs of Rural China: Red Fire. Click here to watch our interview with Cooper on the book.

A sinologist who specializes in Chinese folk custom, Cooper took second place in the 2005 Beijing Television "Arts of Our Land" competition - a week-long talent show that features non-Chinese people performing Chinese arts. He performed "Kangding Qing Ge" and "Xian Qile Nide Gaitou Lai," accompanying himself on guitar.

In fall 2005, Cooper gave a presentation entitled Adventures in Chinese Bureaucracy at the USC School of Social Work.  Cooper shared tales of woe and intrigue as he documented the five years of detours, dead ends and disappointments he endured while seeking approval from Chinese authorities to mount an ethnographic research project in rural China. Upon receiving approval, Cooper bore the humiliations and hardships of carrying out the research under the watchful eye of the local Foreign Affairs Officer and Bureau of Public Security. Anyone conducting business with China or contemplating travel to the communist state will find his talk a humorous, if poignant, lesson in the maniacal persistence required to get things done in the People's Republic of China.

In the spring 2012, Cooper gave the inaugural lecture at the newly established Institute of Anthropology at East China Normal University in Shanghai on the subject “Chinese Minstrelsy: the folk performance art of Jinhua Daoqing”.

Professor Cooper’s expertise includes Chinese civilization, Chinese folk custom; the overseas Chinese diaspora; economic anthropology/political economy; marriage, family and kinship; peasant society; popular culture; and American folklore.

Selected Publications:

  • Cooper, E. (2000). Adventures in Chinese Bureaucracy: A meta-anthropological saga. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
  • Cooper, E. (1998). The Artisans and Entrepreneurs of Dongyang County: Economic Reform and Flexible Production in China. New York: M.E. Sharpe.
  • Cooper, E. & Simic, A. (1994). Reader in Anthropology. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall-Hunt Publishers.
  • Cooper, E. (1980). The Woodcarvers of Hong Kong: Craft Production in the World Capitalist Periphery. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Honors and Awards:

  • USC Mellon Award for Mentoring, 2008-2009
  • Residency at the Institute for Advanced Study, Resident Scholar, School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, 2006-2007