Gordon Mathews

(Professor, Cornell Ph.D., 1993)

Anthropological Interests

Culture and identity, global culture, anthropological theory, meanings of life; geographic areas: Japan, the United States, Hong Kong, Chungking Mansions.


Undergraduate Courses Offered

項目符號 ANTH 1010/UGEC 1681 Humans and Culture
項目符號 ANTH 2350/UGED 2980  Meanings of Life
項目符號 ANTH 2520/UGEC 2990  Globalization and Culture
項目符號 ANTH 3630  Language, Symbols and Society


Postgraduate Courses Offered

項目符號 ANTH 6010  Graduate Seminar in Anthropological Theory
項目符號 ANTH 5315  Meanings of Life
項目符號 ANTH 5520  Globalization and Culture
項目符號 ANTH 5631  Language, Symbols and Society

Research Projects


Chungking Mansions as a World Center of “Low-end Globalization”


Learning to Belong to a Nation: Hong Kong in China and the World


(Belief in) Life After Death as a Window into Contemporary Societies


Anthropological Approaches to Well-Being: Moving Beyond Cultural Relativism


Thinking Through Theory: Making Anthropological Theory Relevant to Everyday Life


Books Written

2011 Ghetto at the Center of the World.  Written by Gordon Mathews.  London: The University of Chicago Press. (available at www.amazon.com) The Chinese translation, by Yang Yang, won the Hong Kong Book Award in June 2014.

2008 Hong Kong, China: Learning to Belong to a Nation.  Written by Gordon Mathews, Eric Kit-wai Ma and Tai-lok Lui.  London: Routledge. (available at www.routledgepolitics.com and shortly on www.amazon.com)

2000 Global Culture/Individual Identity: Searching for Home in the Cultural Supermarket.  London: Routledge. (on-line information at www.amazon.com)  A translation, Supermarket kultury, has been published in Polish, tr. Ewa Klekot (Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 2005); a translation, Cultura global e identidade individual, has been published in Brazilian Portuguese, tr. Mário Mascherpe (Bauru, SP: EDUSC, 2002).

1996 What Makes Life Worth Living?  How Japanese and Americans Make Sense of Their Worlds.  Berkeley: University of California Press. (on-line information at www.amazon.com) A translation, Jinsei ni ikiru kachi o ataete iru mono wa nanika, has been published in Japanese, tr. Yoko Miyakawa  (Tokyo: Sanwa, 2001).


Books Edited

2012 Globalization From Below: The World's Other Economy, edited by Gordon Mathews, Gustavo Lins Ribeiro and Carlos Alba Vega London: Routledge. (on-line information at www.amazon.com)

2008 Pursuits of Happiness: Well-Being in Anthropological Perspective, edited by Gordon Mathews and Carolina Izquierdo.  New York: Berghahn. (on-line information at www.amazon.com)

2004 Japan’s Changing Generations: Are Young People Creating a New Society?  edited by Gordon Mathews and Bruce White.  London: Routledge.  (on-line information at www.amazon.com)

2001 Consuming Hong Kong, edited by Gordon Mathews and Tai-lok Lui. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.  (on-line information at Hong Kong University Press)

I co-edit, with Tan Chee-Beng, the journal Asian Anthropology.


Book Chapters and Journal Articles

2014. "How to Evade States and Slip Past Borders: Lessons from Traders, Overstayers and Asylum Seekers in Hong Kong and China." By Gordon Mathews, Lin Dan and Yang Yang. City & Society  26(2): 217-238.

2014. "Being a Man in a Straitened Japan: The View from Twenty Years Later." In Satsuki Kawano, Glenda S. Roberts, and Susan Orpett Long, eds., Capturing Contemporary Japan: Differentiation and Uncertainty.  Hawai’i: University Of Hawai’i Press.  Pp. 60-80.

2014. "Asylum Seekers in Hong Kong: The Paradoxes of Lives Lived on Hold."  In Jijiao Zhang and Howard Duncan, eds., Migration in China and Asia: Experience and Policy.  New York: Springer.   Pp. 73-85.

2014. "The Urban Geography of Chungking Mansions" in Kowloon Cultural District: An Investigation into Spatial Capabilities in Hong Kong, edited by Esther Lorenz and Li Shiqiao. Hong Kong: MCCM Creations.  Pp. 286-293.

2012 "Nihon ni okeru ikigai to raifukōsu no henka" [Ikigai and Changing Life Courses in Japan].  In Hiromi Tanaka, Maren Godzik, and Kristina Iwata Weickgenaant, eds.  Raifukōsu sentaku no yukue [Beyond a Standardized Lifecourse]. Tokyo: Shinyosha. Pp. 360-380.

2012 "Contesting Anglo-American Hegemony in Publication." Journal of Workplace Rights 16(3-4): 405-421.  

2012 "Happiness, Culture and Context." International Journal of Wellbeing 2(4): 299-312. (Online Article)

2012 "African Traders in Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong." In David W. Haines, Keiko Yamanaka, and Shinji Yamashita, eds., Wind Over Water: Migration in an East Asian Context, New York: Berghahn. Pp. 208-218.

2012 "Death and 'the Pursuit of a Life Worth Living' in Japan." In Hikaru Suzuki, ed., Death and Dying in Contemporary Japan, London: Routledge, 2012. Pp. 33-48.

2012 Gordon Mathews and Yang Yang. "How Africans Pursue Low-end Globalization in Hong Kong and Mainland China." Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 41 (2): 95-120. (Online Article)

2012 "Another Way to Resist Wall Street: Copies, Smuggling, and "Globalization from Below."" In Jane Byrne, ed., The Occupy Handbook, New York: Back Bay Books. Pp. 480-493.

2012 "Identities, Traditional," "Identities in Global Societies," in Helmut K. Anheier and Mark Juergensmeyer, eds. Encyclopedia of Global Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Pp. 850-859.

2011 "The Mall of the World,"Foreign Policy. (Online Article)

2011 "The World in a Building,"Berfrois. (Online Article)

2011 "Understanding Japanese Society Through Life After Death." Japan Forum, Vol. 23, no. 3, Pp. 363-384.

2010 "On the Referee System as a Barrier to Global Anthropology." The Asia-Pacific Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 52-63.

2010 "Les Traders Africains à Hong Kong et en China : L'abondance (du faux) à domicile."  Les Temps Modernes, Jan-March 2010, No. 657, pp. 110-124

2009 "Hong Kong Chinese Professors Within the "Western" University Model." In Gregory S. Poole and Ya-chen Chen,  eds., Higher Education in East Asia: Neoliberalism and the Professoriate.  Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Pp. 99-106

2008 "Why Japanese Anthropology is Ignored Beyond Japan." Japanese Review of Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 9.   Pp. 53-69

2008 “Chungking Mansions: A Center of ‘Low-End Globalization.’”  Ethnology XLVI (2): 169-183. 

2008. “La ‘brecha generacional’ en Japón” [The Japanese ‘Generation Gap’].  In  Anuario Asia Pacifico 2007. Barcelona: Casa Asia.  Pp. 485-492

2008 “Anthropology, Happiness, and Well-Being.” “Finding and Keeping a Purpose in Life: Well-Being and Ikigai in Japan and Elsewhere.” “Towards an Anthropology of Well-Being.”   In G. Mathews and C. Izquierdo, eds, Pursuits of Happiness: Well-Being in Anthropological Perspective.  London and New York: Berghahn.  Pp. 1-19, 167-185, 248-266.

2008 "Kangju guojia rentong de xianggang: shi zhimin shidai de fuhezhe haishi quanqiuhua de xianqu [Hong Kong's Resistance to National Identity: Echo of a Colonial Past or Harbinger of a Globalized Future?]"   In Hao Zhidong, ed., Guojia rentong yu liang’an weilai [National Identity and the Future of Cross-Strait Relations]. Macau: University of Macau Press.  Pp. 123-140.

2007 "Cultural Identity in an Age of Globalization: Implications on Architecture."  In Sang Lee and Ruth Baumeister, eds., The Domestic and the Foreign in Architecture.  Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.  Pp. 47-54. 

2006 "Happiness and the Pursuit of a Life Worth Living: An Anthropological Approach.” In Yew-kwang Ng and Lok Sang Ho, eds., Happiness and Public Policy.  Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan.  Pp. 147-168. 

2006 “If Anthropology is a Science, then the East-West Dichotomy is Irrelevant: Moving Towards a Global Anthropology.”  In J. Hendry and H. W. Wong, eds., Dismantling the East-West Dichotomy: Essays in Honour of Jan van Bremen.  London: Routledge.  Pp. 183-188.

2005 “Context and Consciousness in the Practice of Transnationality.”  City and Society (American Anthropological Association / Society for Urban, National, Transnational, and Global Anthropology), vol. XVII, no. 1, pp. 35-48.

2004 “On the Tension Between Japanese and American Anthropological Depictions of Japan.”  In S. Yamashita, J. Bosco, and J. Eades, eds.,The Making of Anthropology in East and Southeast Asia.  New York:  Berghahn.  Pp. 114-135.

2004 “Fence, Flavour, and Phantasm: Japanese Musicians and the Meanings of Japaneseness.” Japanese Studies 24(3): 335-349.

2004 “Seeking a Career, Finding a Job: How Young People Enter and Resist the Japanese World of Work.”  In G. Mathews and B. White, eds., Japan’s Changing Generations: Are Young People Creating a New Society?, London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon.  Pp. 121-136.  Reprinted in D. P. Martinez, ed,  Modern Japanese Society and Culture, Volume II: Life Courses, Gender, and the Self.  London: Routledge, 2007.

2002 “Can ‘a Real Man’ Live For His Family?  Ikigai and Masculinity in Today’s Japan.” In J. Roberson and N. Suzuki, eds., Men and Masculinities in Contemporary Japan: Dislocating the Salaryman Doxa.  London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon.  Pp. 109-125.

2002 Review Essay: “Japan’s Alternative Modernity in a Globalizing World.” American Anthropologist 104(3): 958-961

2001 “A Collision of Discourses: Japanese and Hong Kong Chinese During the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands Crisis.”  In H. Befu and S. Guichard-Anguis, eds., Globalizing Japan.  London and New York: Routledge.  Pp. 153-175.

2001 “Bunkateki bunmyaku kara mita ikigai” (The Cultural Context of What Makes  Life Worth Living).  In Y. Takahashi and S. Wada, eds., Ikigai no shakaigaku (The Sociology of What Makes Life Worth Living). Tokyo: Kōbundo.  Pp. 53-90.

2001 “Cultural Identity and Consumption in Post-Colonial Hong Kong.”  In G. Mathews and T. Lui, eds., Consuming Hong Kong.  Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.  Pp.287-317.

1998 “The Contemporary Meanings of Culture: Why Hong Kong May Be the Most Exciting Place in the World to Do Anthropological Research.” In S. Cheung, ed., On the South China Track: Perspectives on Anthropological Research.  Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong.  Pp. 111-130.

1997 “Hèunggóngyàhn: On the Past, Present, and Future of Hong Kong Identity.” Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 29(3): 3-13.  Reprinted in Benjamin Leung, ed., Hong Kong. International Library of Social Change in the Pacific, Aldershot U.K. Ashgate, 2003, and in Pun Ngai and Yee Lai-man, eds., Narrating Hong Kong Culture and Identity.  Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 2003.

1996 “Names and Identities in the Hong Kong Cultural Supermarket.” Dialectical Anthropology 21 (3,4): 399-419.

1996 “The Stuff of Dreams, Fading:  Ikigai and ‘the Japanese Self.’” Ethos 24 (4): 718-747.  Reprinted in D. P. Martinez, ed, Modern Japanese Society and Culture, Volume II: Life Courses, Gender, and the Self.  London: Routledge, 2007.

1996 “The Pursuit of a Life Worth Living in Japan and the United States.” Ethnology XXXV (1): 51-62.


Newspaper Op-Ed Pieces

2013   "Academics Denied Their Place in Debate on Hong Kong." Op-ed Column, The South China Morning Post, on the effects of Research Assessment Exercises, April 22. (Link)

2012.  "Arguing, Learning, Waiting." Op-ed column, New York Times, June 27. (Link)



I also play music sometimes.  Here is some brief performances with Leah Cheung: