Dan Smyer Yu is now Professor and Founding Director of the Center for Trans-Himalayan Studies at Yunnan Minzu University.
Dan Smyer Yu is an anthropologist specializing in the studies of religious revitalizations, charismatic communities, commercialization of religious spirituality, and the relationship between eco-religious practices and place-making in contemporary China. He received his PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Davis. Prior to his joining Max Planck, he was a New Millennium Scholar and the Associate Director of the Ethnic Minority Study Center of China at Minzu University of China. He also taught and held research positions at the University of California, Davis, Graduate Theological Union, San Francisco Theological Seminary, and Sacramento City College, and the Center for the Pacific Rim of University of San Francisco.
His research interests include religion and ethnic nationalism; religiosity of state ideology; religious conversion; religion and ecology; sacred landscapes; pilgrimage studies; religion and mental health; religion and peacebuilding; visual anthropology; and religious use of digital media. At MPI-MMG he was writing a book concerning the intersections of religion, nation, and nationalism in the context of modern Sino-Tibetan interactions. It addresses how land, place-making, nostalgia, modernity, imagination, and representation are entwined in both rural and urban settings of contemporary China.
In addition to his research writing, Dan Smyer Yu has also made an ethnographic film titled 'Embrace', which documents Amdo Tibetans’ narratives concerning folk religious practices and their ecological significances. It was nominated for award at the Beijing International Film Festival in 2011.