University of Heidelberg

Prof. Dr. William S. Sax

William S. Sax, Prof. Dr. Prof. Dr. William Sax
Leiter der Abteilung


  • Professor and Head of Department of Anthropology, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University
  • Principal Investigator

Contact information

Heidelberg University
South Asia Institute
Department of Anthropology
Im Neuenheimer Feld 330, Room 507
69120 Heidelberg

Phone: +49 (0)6221 - 54 89 31

Office Hours

Tuesday 11:15 - 12:45
Please arrange an appointment via E-Mail.

Research foci

Ethnography of India, Anthropology of Religion, Medical Anthropology, Western Himalayas


Finished Projects

  • 2002-2005 SFB 619 Teilprojekt A4
    "Handlungspotential (agency) und territoriale Rituale in Indien"
  • 2001-2005 DFG-Projekt SA 930/1-1 & 930/1-2
    "Umstrittene Zentren: Konstruktion und Wandel sozio-kultureller Identitäten in der indischen Region Orissa"
  • 2001-2005 DFG-Projekt SA 930/4-1 + 930/4-2
    "Dokumentation eines Heilkultes im Zentral-Himalaya und dessen Analyse im Rahmen der "kritisch-interpretativen Medizinethnologie" und der "Performanz-Theorie"
  • 2004 DFG 4850/92-04 Kongress-Zuschuss
    "The Ills of Marginality: New Perspectives on Subaltern Health in South Asia"
  • July 2005 - June 2009 SFB 619 Sub-Project A5
    Ritual Healing and its critics

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)


  • 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.


  • 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: KulturÜbergreifende 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 / MÜnster / 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.

Short biography

Prof. William S. Sax, PhD obtained degrees from the University of Washington in Seattle and Banaras Hindu University before earning his M.A. (1982) and PhD (1987) in Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He taught for two years at Harvard University and eleven years in Christchurch, New Zealand before becoming head of the Department of Anthropology in 2000.

Curriculum vitae

Curriculum vitae: Download (pdf)

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Modern Asian Studies

Volume 48 - Issue 05 - September 2014

Hier klicken für den Artikelüberblick.


Asymmetrical Conversations

Contestations, Circumventions, and the Blurring of Therapeutic Boundaries

Epistemologies of Healing, Vol. 14, edited by Harish Naraindas, Johannes Quack, and William S. Sax, New York 2014.
In der UB: click here.


The anthropology of neoliberal India: An introduction.

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Ritual Healing and Mental Health in India.

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