Mary Phillips

Mary Phillips

Research Interest

Chinese intellectual history

Mary Phillips is a scholar of Chinese intellectual history and a social scientist. She writes and lectures on how ancient belief systems and cultural traditions adapt to the modern world. Her work focuses on how Confucian core ideals remain extant in terms of power and change in modern China, and on how Tibetan Buddhist metaphysics, epistemology and the Middle Way relate to the debate between Western science and religion. Her forthcoming book, Identity by Design, takes a compilation of previously published articles and places them in a personal narrative based on her longitudinal study and participatory observations in China to demonstrate the influence of ancient beliefs in shaping modern worldviews. She is also revising two textbooks she wrote while teaching in China that offer fresh teaching methods and unique curricula: Intellectual Analysis: Continuing Traditions, a method of teaching critical thinking to Chinese students; and Tibetan Heritage: A Trilingual Reader on Ideas (English, Tibetan, Chinese), developed to accelerate Tibetans’ abilities to articulate complicated Buddhist concepts on the world stage.

After completing her affiliation at the Harvard Asia Center, Phillips lived in Beijing where she taught, published her research in Chinese publications, and ran academic programs from 2003 to 2011. She lectured widely in China on her field of comparative intellectual history. Phillips joined the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences CASS graduate school faculty where she taught advanced research writing based on critical thinking, social science theory and methods. Building on the success of these courses, Phillips developed training programs that strengthen objectivity and dissertation research design for professors and scholars at the China Tibetology Research Center and Minzu University of China.

Phillips received a BA in Near Eastern Studies (Egyptology/philology of ancient Egyptian languages) from the University of Toronto, and an MA and PhD in Sociology from the American University. Her PhD concentration coursework on Chinese intellectual history was completed in the East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department at Harvard University, where Tu Weiming and Michael Puett served as committee advisers on her dissertation, Confucian Social Theory: Power, Social Mobility and Change.