Tanya Marie Luhrmann (born 1959) is an American psychological anthropologist known for her studies of modern-day witches, charismatic Christians, and studies of how culture shapes psychotic, dissociative, and related experiences. She has also studied culture and morality, and the training of psychiatrists. She is Watkins University Professor in the Anthropology Department at Stanford University. Luhrmann was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2022.[1]

Tanya Luhrmann
Born1959 (age 64–65)
EducationHarvard University (BA)
Christ's College, Cambridge (MPhil, PhD)
SpouseRichard Saller
AwardsAAA President's Award (2004)
Lewis Henry Morgan Lecture (2006)
Guggenheim Fellowship (2007)
Scientific career
FieldsPsychological anthropology
InstitutionsStanford University
University of California, San Diego
University of Chicago
Doctoral advisorJack Goody
Ernest Gellner

Education and career


Luhrmann received her A.B., summa cum laude, in Folklore and Mythology from Harvard-Radcliffe in 1981, working with Stanley Tambiah. She then studied social anthropology at Cambridge University,[2] working with Jack Goody and Ernest Gellner. In 1986 she received her PhD for work on modern-day witches in England, later published as Persuasions of the Witch's Craft (1989). In this book, she described the ways in which magic and other esoteric techniques both serve emotional needs and come to seem reasonable through the experience of practice.[3]

Her second research project looked at the situation of contemporary Parsis, a Zoroastrian community in India. The Parsi community enjoyed a privileged position under the British Raj; although by many standards, Parsis continued to do well economically in post-colonial India, they have become politically marginal in comparison to their previous position. During Luhrmann's fieldwork in the 1990s, many Parsis spoke pessimistically about the future of their community. Luhrmann's book The Good Parsi (1996) explored the contradictions inherent in the social psychology of a post-colonial elite.

Her third book explored the contradictions and tensions between two models of psychiatry, the psychodynamic (psychoanalytic) and the biomedical, through the ethnographic study of the training of American psychiatry residents during the health care transition of the early 1990s.[4] Of Two Minds (2000) received several awards, including the Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing and the Boyer Prize for Psychological Anthropology (2001).[5]

Her fourth book, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God (March 2012), examines the growing movement of evangelical and charismatic Christianity, and specifically how practitioners come to experience God as someone with whom they can communicate on a daily basis through prayer and visualization. It was the focus of a book review symposium in Religion, Brain & Behavior.[6]

Her other projects include a NIMH-funded study of how chronical or periodic homelessness contributes to the experience and morbidity of schizophrenia.[7]

Tanya Luhrmann was a faculty member in Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego, from 1989 to 2000. From 2000 to 2007, she was Max Palevsky Professor in the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago, where she was also a director of the program in clinical ethnography.[8] Since 2007, she has been a professor of anthropology at Stanford University.[9]

She was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003,[10] president of the Society for Psychological Anthropology for 2008.[11] She has received awards for scholarship, including the American Anthropological Association's President's award for 2004[12] and a 2007 Guggenheim award.[13][14] In 2006, Luhrmann delivered the Lewis Henry Morgan Lecture at the University of Rochester.[15]

Personal life


Tanya Luhrmann was raised in New Jersey. She has two sisters, including children's book author Anna Dewdney.[16][17]

Luhrmann is married to interim Stanford University president Richard Saller.[18]

Select publications

  • Luhrmann, Tanya M. (1989) Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Luhrmann, Tanya M. (1996) The Good Parsi: the postcolonial anxieties of an Indian colonial elite. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Luhrmann, Tanya M. (2000) Of two minds: The growing disorder in American psychiatry. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
  • Luhrmann, Tanya M. (2004) "Metakinesis: How God Becomes Intimate in Contemporary U.S. Christianity". American Anthropologist 106:3:518-528.
  • Luhrmann, Tanya M. (2012) When God talks back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
  • Luhrmann, Tanya M. (2022) How God Becomes Real: Kindling the Presence of Invisible Others. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


  • Luhrmann, Tanya; Fortier, Martin (2017). "The anthropology of mind: Exploring unusual sensations and spiritual experiences across cultures. An interview with Tanya Luhrmann". ALIUS Bulletin. 1: 25–36. doi:10.34700/7ppf-h459.


  1. ^ "The American Philosophical Society Welcomes New Members for 2022".
  2. ^ http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=218906 [dead link]
  3. ^ Mary Jo Neitz "Review: Persuasions of the Witch's Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England." The American Journal of Sociology 96:2 (September 1990) JSTOR 2781128
  4. ^ Laura Miller "Review: Of Two Minds By T.M. Luhrmann" Salon, May 25, 2000
  5. ^ SPA Prize Winners Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Book Symposium: Tanya Luhrmann's When God Talks Back", Religion, Brain & Behavior (Vol. 4, No. 1), with commentary by Candace S. Alcorta, Brian Malley, Steven J. Sandage, Brad D. Strawn & Warren S. Brown, and James K. Wellman, Jr. (accessed 14 January 2016).
  7. ^ Medscape Perspectives on the 2007 Annual Sessions of the American Psychiatric Association: May 23, 2007
  8. ^ "Tanya Luhrmann". Archived from the original on 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
  9. ^ " "AnthSci and CASA merge into one dept", The Stanford Daily, February 1, 2007 "AnthSci and CASA merge into one dept. - the Stanford Daily Online". Archived from the original on 2007-02-04. Retrieved 2007-08-20.
  10. ^ University of Chicago Chronicle, 22:17 (May 29, 2003
  11. ^ "SPA Officers". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-03-08.
  12. ^ Anthropology News, February 2005
  13. ^ Stanford Report, May 2, 2007: Honors & Awards
  14. ^ Guggenheim Foundation 2007 Fellows Archived 2008-07-31 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Morgan Lecture Series : Department of Anthropology : University of Rochester".
  16. ^ Wolfson, Jill (9 February 2015). "Hearing the Voice of God". Medium. Retrieved 2 January 2024.
  17. ^ Grimes, William (7 September 2016). "Anna Dewdney Dies; Author of 'Llama Llama' Books Was 50". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 January 2024.
  18. ^ "A Dean's Debut". Stanford Magazine. 1 September 2007. Retrieved 2 January 2024.