In the west, the idea of autonomy is often associated with a sense of freedom -- a self-interested state of being, unfettered by rules or obligations to others. In this original anthropological study, Erika Evasdottir explores a type of "obedient" autonomy that blossoms as more rules are imposed, thrives on setbacks, and flourishes in adversity. Obedient Autonomy analyzes this model, and explains its precepts through examining the specialized and highly organized discipline of archeology in China.While archeologists are often required to travel the countryside for excavations, they must also work with state officials, among others, who seek their advice as intellectuals. They are therefore uniquely obliged to adopt various and mutable roles and to adjust their modes of interaction judiciously -- among themselves, with peasant-workers, and with bureaucratic officials. This book follows Chinese students on their journey to becoming fully-fledged archeologists in a bureaucracy-saturated environment. The analysis of China's complex social system, through the experience of these students, reveals how hierarchy, reciprocity, compatibility, and authority are construed and how obedient autonomy is fostered in the teacher-student relationship. Moreover, it demonstrates how this form of autonomy enables individuals to order and control their future careers in a seemingly disorderly and uncertain world. A brilliant contextualization of archeology in China, Obedient Autonomy shows how the discipline has accommodated itself to a Chinese social structure, and uncovers the moral, ethical, political, and economic underpinnings of that context. It will be accessible to students of anthropology even as it will provoke Euro-American archeologists and interest social theorists of science, philosophers, gender theorists, and students of Chinese society.