Michael Ing

Michael Ing

Assistant Professor, Religious Studies

  • ming@indiana.edu
  • Sycamore Hall 203
  • Office Hours
    By Appointment Only


  • Ph.D., Harvard University, 2011


I study Confucianism with a particular emphasis on ethics and ritual in the early period (5th century BCE to 2nd century CE). In a more general sense, I am interested in issues of vulnerability as they relate to Confucian accounts of the human condition, and Confucian attitudes toward the ability, or inability, of human beings to determine their own welfare.

My recent book, The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), examines a text called the Liji (The Record of Ritual), which purports to be written by Confucius’ immediate disciples. In the book I analyze the ways in which the authors of the Liji coped with the possibility that their rituals might fail to create an ordered world. In short I argue that their concern over the dysfunction of ritual did not undermine their confidence in ritual but rather acted as a productive anxiety that created space for innovation and experimentation within their ritual tradition. This work is situated in the larger discourses of ritual studies, religious ethics, and in the growing field of Chinese philosophy.

My current research focuses on the theme of vulnerability in early Confucian texts. Broadly speaking, it investigates the kinds of meaningful things that early Confucians believed to be beyond their power to control. In particular I am interested in issues of death, integrity, and historical memory.