Professor Elisabeth Hsu

Elisabeth Hsu is Professor in Anthropology at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Oxford, and a fellow of Green Templeton College. Her research interests lie within the fields of medical anthropology and ethnobotany; language and text critical studies. They concern Chinese medicine; the transmission of knowledge and practice; pulse diagnosis; body and personhood; touch, pain, feelings, emotions, and sensory experience.

After learning standard modern Chinese at the Beijing Language Institute in 1978-79, she studied biology at ETH Zurich 1979-1984. Her dissertation involved one year of independent research on the biosystematics and chemotaxonomy of Betonica officinalis L. She then turned to the study of Chinese medicine while working towards a master's degree in general linguistics in 1986-87 and a doctorate in social anthropology in 1987-92 at the University of Cambridge. She obtained a ‘habilitation' in Sinology from the University of Heidelberg in 2002 in recognition of her anthropological analyses of pulse diagnostics, as recorded in early Chinese medical case histories dating to the second century BCE. She joined the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology in 2001 for setting up the medical anthropology master's courses and she initiated the founding of a post-doctoral Anthropology research group on Eastern medicines and religions in 2006.

Contact Information:


Tel: +44 (0)1865 274681



Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford

51 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6PE. UK


Research Interests

Ongoing field research (since 2001) has been on Chinese medicine in East Africa, while my more recent field research (Autumn 2009) concerned tactility in caring practices and should contribute to new approaches to technologies of the self, kinship and relatedness.

For a complete listing of Dr. Hsu's publications, please click here.