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William S. Sax, Prof. Dr.


William S. Sax, Prof. Dr.


  • Deputy Speaker, Research Area C "Health and Environment"
  • Professor and Head of Department of Anthropology, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University
  • Principal Investigator

Contact information


Curriculum vitae

since 2000: Full professor of Anthropology of South Asia, South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg

1989 – 2000: Senior Lecturer, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

1987 – 1989: Fellow, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard


1987: PhD, Anthropology, The University of Chicago

1982: MA, Anthropology, The University of Chicago

1980: BA (High Honors), South Asian Studies, University of Washington (Seattle)

1980: BA (High Honors), Asian Langs. and Literatures, University of Washington

1978: Hindi Diploma, Benares Hindu University, Varanasi, India


March/April 2006: Guest Professor, EHESS, Paris

1990 – 1991: American Institute for Indian Studies Senior Research Fellowship (1990–1991/1997–1998)

1987 – 89: Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University 

1983 – 1986: Fulbright Fellowship at the American Institute for Indian Studies


2002 – 2009: “Handlungspotential (agency) und territoriale Rituale in Indien”   “Dokumentation eines Heilkultes im Zentral-Himalaya und dessen Analyse im Rahmen der ‘kritisch-interpretativen Medizinethnologie’ und der ‘Performanz-Theorie’” (DFG)

2001 – 2005: “Umstrittene Zentren: Konstruktion und Wandel sozio-kultureller IndentitĂ€ten in der indischen Region Orissa”

1997 – 1998: N.E.H. Senior Research Fellow

1995: Religion and Politics in South Asia”, conference of New Zealand Specialists

1992 – 1998: University of Canterbury Research Grant

1987 – 1989: Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Postdoctoral Fellow  

1983 – 1986: Doctoral research in India (Department of Education Fulbright-Hays)

Selected publications


1991. Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Central Himalayan Pilgrimage. New York: Oxford University Press.

1995. The Gods at Play: Lila in South Asia. New York: OUP. (edited volume)

2002. Dancing the Self: personhood and performance in the pandav lila of Garhwal. New York: OUP. (monograph)

2009. God of Justice: ritual healing in the central Himalaya.  New York: Oxford University Press. (monograph)

2010. The Problem of Ritual Efficacy.  New York: Oxford University Press.  (edited with Johannes Quack and Jan Weinhold)

in press. Hindi translation of Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Central Himalayan Pilgrimage.  Dehra Dun, India: Binsar.


2001. (with Data Ram Purohit.) Shri Nanda Devi Raj Jat (in Hindi).


1990. Village Daughter, Village Goddess: Residence, Gender, and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage. American Ethnologist 17 (3):491-512.

1990. The Ramnagar Ramlila: Text, Performance, Pilgrimage. History of Religions 30 (2): 129-53. (Reprinted in Singh Rana P. B., ed. 1993. Banaras (Varanasi) Cosmic Order, Sacred City, Hindu Traditions. Varanasi: Tara Book Agency, p. 257-73.)

1993. Goddess or goddesses? Politics and Theology in the Study of Hinduism. Sites: a journal for radical perspectives on culture 25:105-117.

1995. Introduction. In W. S. Sax, ed, The Gods at Play: Lila in South Asia. New York: OUP.

1995. Who's Who in Pandav Lila? In W. S. Sax, ed, The Gods at Play: Lila in South Asia. New York: OUP, pp. 131-55.

1997. Fathers, Sons, and Rhinoceroses: Masculinity and Violence in the Pandav Lila. Journal of the American Oriental Society 117 (2): 278-94.

1998. The Hall of Mirrors: Orientalism, Anthropology, and the Other. American Anthropologist 100 (2): 22-31.

1999. State Sovereignty vs. Human Rights: a Reply to Paul Morris. Asia Quarterly July-September 1999: 8-9.

2000. In Karna's Realm: an ontology of action. Journal of Indian Philosophy 28 (3): 295-324.

2000. Conquering the Quarters: Religion and Politics in Hinduism. International Journal of Hindu Studies 4(1): 39-60.

2004. Healing Rituals: a critical performative approach. Anthropology and Medicine 11 (3): 293-306.

2004. Reply to Reviewers. Review Forum, (Review of W. S. Sax, Dancing the Self: Person-hood and Performance in the Pandav Lila of Garhwal.) Journal of Ritual Studies 18 (3)

2005. Introduction (with Stefan Ecks). In Ecks, Stefan and William S. Sax, eds. The Ills of Marginality: new perspectives on subaltern health. Nov. 2005.

2008. "I have no one!"  Ritual Healing and Family Relationships in Garhwal.  In Caterina Guenzi and Ines Zupanov, eds., Purusartha 27, Divins remĂšdes. MĂ©decine et religion en Inde.

2010. Village Agency. In Mines, Diana P. and Nicolas Yazgi, Village Matters: Relocating Villages in the Contemporary Anthropology of India, p. 89-196.  Delhi: OUP.

2010 (with Johannes Quack).  Introduction: The Efficacy of Rituals.  The Journal of Ritual Studies  24 (1): 5-12.

2010 (with Jan Weinhold and Jochen Schweitzer). Ritual Healing East and West: a comparison of ritual healing in the Garhwal Himalayas and family constellation in Germany. The Journal of Ritual Studies  24 (1): 61-77.


1987. Kumbha Mela. In Mircea Eliade, et al, eds., Encyclopedia of Religion. New York: Macmillan & Co.

1991. Ritual and Performance in the Pandavalila of Uttarakhand. In Arvind Sharma, ed., Essays on the Mahabharata, p. 274-95. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

1992. Pilgrimage Unto Death. In Jim Veitch, ed., To Strive and Not to Yield: Essays in Honour of Colin Brown. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press.

1993. Lila. In William Scott Green, ed., Harper's Dictionary of Religion.

1994. Gender and Politics in Garhwal. In Nita Kumar, ed., Women as Subjects: South Asian Histories, pp. 172-210. Calcutta

1996. Draupadi and Kunti in the Pandav Lila. In The Wild Goddess in South Asia, ed. Axel Michaels and Cornelia Vogelsanger. Zurich: Studia Religiosa Helvetica, Vol. 1, pp. 355-81.

1996. Hinduism: Reverence for the Natural Environment. In James Veitch, ed., Can Humanity Survive? The World's Religions and the Environment, p. 51-68. Auckland: Awareness Book Company.

1999. Worshiping Epic Villains: A Kaurava Cult in the Central Himalayas. In Beissinger, Margaret, et al, eds. Epic Traditions in the Contemporary World: the Poetics of Community. Berkeley: UCB Press, pp. 169-186.

1999. Gender and the Representation of Violence in Pandav Lila. Chapter 10 in I. Julia Leslie, ed., Gender Constructs in Indian Religion and Society. Delhi: Motilal.

2000. Residence and Ritual in the Garhwal Himalayas. In Maheshwar P. Joshi and Allen C.

Fanger and Charles W. Brown, eds., Himalaya: Past and Present, Volume IV, pp. 79-114. Almora, India: Shree Almora Book Depot.

2001. The Pandav Lila of Uttarakhand. In Molly Kaushal, ed., Chanted Narratives: the Living "Katha-Vachana" Tradition. Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, pp. 165-174.

2002. Heilungsrituale: Ein kritischer performativer Ansatz. Paragrana 12.1-2: 385-404.

2002. Pandav Lila. In Peter J. Claus and Margaret A. Mills, eds. South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge.

2002. Ram Lila. In Peter J. Claus and Margaret A. Mills, eds. South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge.

2003. Divine Kingdoms in the Central Himalayas. In Niels Gutschow, et al, eds., Sacred Landscapes of the Himalaya. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischan Akademie der Wissenschaften.

2004. Heilrituale der Dalits im indischen Zentral-Himalaya. In Dietrich Harth und Gerrit Jasper Schenk, Hrg., Ritualdynamik: KulturĂŒbergreifende Studien zur Theorie und Geschichte rituellen Handelns. Heidelberg: Synchron 2004, 363-380.

2004. Addicted to Justice, Ecstatic in Union. Paragrana 13: 62-77.

2006a. A Divine Identity-Crisis. In Köpping, Klaus-Peter and Bernhard Leistle and Michael Rudolph eds. Ritual and Identity: Performative Practices as Effective Transformations of Social Reality/ Hamburg / MĂŒnster / London: LIT.

2006b. At the Borders of Morality: Rituals of Aggression. In Henrik Jungaberle and Rolf Verres, eds.

2006c. Agency. In Kreinath, Jens and Jan Snoek and Michael Stausberg, eds., Theorizing Rituals: Classical Topics, Theoretical Approaches, Analytical Concepts, Annotated Bibliography. Leiden: Brill.

Further information

Profile at the South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University