Carnegie Mellon University

Donald Sutton

Donald Sutton

Professor Emeritus, Department of History


Donald Sutton is a China historian working from Ming to the present in several distinct topical areas, combining archives, published material and fieldwork. His first book, Provincial Militarism and the Chinese Republic, explored the origins of warlordism through the micropolitics of an officer corps surviving as central authority broke down. His second book, Steps of Perfection, examined Taiwanese local religion as it emerged from Kuomintang rule, analyzing local festival troupes’ market-driven diversification in organizational form and performance style. His third book, Contesting the Yellow Dragon, co-authored with Xiaofei Kang, is a long-term history, tracing the successive transformations of a Sino-Tibetan frontier region from remote Ming garrison to modern tourist mecca in the People’s Republic. It is a work of political culture, combining the religious and military foci of the earlier studies. (Honored as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2016, in the journal's Anthropology list).

While completing these studies, Sutton co-edited three works, one of which has been translated for republication for a Chinese press. Over the years, he has also pursed ethnographic and textual research on ritual, publishing some twelve interconnected articles covering various local Chinese societies; he has also published on ethnic relations and identities on the frontiers, especially the internal periphery of West Hunan. This last topic, specifically the Miao uprising of 1795 and its suppression, is the main focus of his ongoing writing.