Andrew Alan Johnson

Assistant Professor
On Sabbatical for 2018-19
(609) 258-2186
Email Address:
Office Location: 
123 Aaron Burr Hall

On academic leave.



Ph.D. in Anthropology (Cornell University, 2010)

Ethnography; animism, spirit possession and haunting; urbanism; historical anthropology; migrant work; precarity; religion and environment; water and rivers; psychoanalysis; Southeast Asia (Singapore, Thailand and Laos).

Short bio

Andrew Alan Johnson’s research focuses upon the afterlife of environmental and economic catastrophe in the northern and northeastern region of Thailand. His first book, Ghosts of the New City, takes a historical look at the idea of the city in northern Thailand. Taking post-economic crisis Chiang Mai as a starting point, Johnson traces its transformation from Buddhist center to nationalist symbol to site of anxiety as the very idea of progress reaches a state of crisis. His current project looks at spectral sources of power in the lives of Lao-speaking fishermen and migrant workers from the Mekong River in the wake of massive dam projects and environmental disruption.

Before joining Princeton, Johnson was an inaugural faculty member at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. He has also held postdoctoral positions and assistant professor positions, respectively, in Southeast Asia-oriented research programs worldwide, including the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute (Singapore) and the Sogang Institute for East Asian Studies (South Korea). Finally, he has held affiliations with Aarhus University (Denmark), Göttingen University’s Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia (Germany), and Chiang Mai University’s Centre for ASEAN Studies (Thailand).

Ghosts of the New City: Spirits, Urbanity, and the Ruins of Progress in Chiang Mai

Publications List: 

Selected Publications

Ghosts of the New City: Spirits, Urbanism and the Ruins of Progress in Chiang Mai. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. 2014.
“Ghost Mothers: Kinship Relations in Thai Spirit Cults.” Social Analysis. 60(2): 82-96. 2016.
“Moral Knowledge and its Enemies: Conspiracy and Kingship in Thailand” Anthropological Quarterly 86(4):1059-1086. 2013.
“Progress and its Ruins: Ghosts, migrants and the uncanny in Thailand” Cultural Anthropology 28(2): 299-319. 2013. 
“Naming Chaos: Accident, precariousness, and the spirits of wildness in urban Thai spirit cults” American Ethnologist 39(4): 766-778. 2012. 
“Re-Centering the City: Spirits, local wisdom, and urban design at the Three Kings Monument of Chiang Mai” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 42(3): 511-531. 2011.
“Authenticity, Tourism, and Self-discovery in Thailand: Self-creation and the Discerning Gaze of Trekkers and Old Hands” SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 22(2): 153-178. 2007.