Charles Stafford is a specialist in the anthropology of China and Taiwan, and in the anthropology of learning and cognition. His research has focused primarily on child development, kinship and religion, morality and ethics, and economic psychology. Along with his colleague Rita Astuti, he is currently working on issues related to the general problem of human cooperation. How and why do humans cooperate with each other? What are the psychological and social building blocks that make cooperation possible?
Professor Stafford's first major fieldwork project was conducted in the late 1980s in a Taiwanese fishing community where he examined child development through the lens of nationalist schooling and Taiwanese popular religion. This resulted in his monograph, The roads of Chinese childhood (Cambridge 1995). In the early 1990s he began to conduct research in mainland China on issues related to kinship, religion, and Chinese historical consciousness. He became especially interested in rituals and practices related to "separation" and "reunion," which help to structure the flow of social life in rural communities - see his Separation and reunion in modern China (Cambridge 2000).
More recently, his work has focused on the intersection between everyday moral/ethical life and economic psychology, including the psychology of cooperation. His most recent edited books are Ordinary ethics in China (Bloomsbury 2013), and Cooperation in Chinese communities (Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2018). He also has a forthcoming single author monograph entitled Logic and emotion in Chinese economic life, now under review with a major university press for publication in 2018. Meanwhile, Professor Stafford and colleagues have been carrying out fieldwork in the rural American heartland state of Oklahoma for a project on "Cooperation within families and inequality between families".