Dr. Carstens divides her time between Anthropology and the PSU Institute for Asian Studies, where she has served as Director since 2010. As a sociocultural anthropologist, she has conducted a series of ethnographic research projects with ethnic Chinese in Malaysia that focus on issues of identity, religion, ethnohistory, gender, and (more recently) language practices and ideologies. Between 2005 and 2011, Dr. Carstens researched how Chinese culture was taught in K-8 Bilingual Mandarin/English programs in Beijing, Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Edmonton, and then collaborated with four Portland based K-8 Chinese teachers to produce a co-authored bilingual monograph, Language Through Culture, Culture Through Language: A Framework for K-8 Mandarin Curriculum published by Peking University Press in 2013. Returning to Malaysia for Sabbatical research in 2013-2014, Dr. Carstens has embarked on a new qualitative ethnographic research project that explores language identities and ideologies among younger generation multi-lingual Chinese Malaysians.
Dr. Carsten's research interests include cultural anthropology, symbolic anthropology, identity, gender, ethnohistory, education; China, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, and Asian Americans.
2013. Language Through Culture, Culture Through Language: A Framework for K-8 Mandarin Curriculum (教汉语教文化：贯连小学初中的汉语教学策略) (Bilingual: English and Chinese). (Chief Editor: Carstens; Authors: Carstens, Whyte, Cheng; Translators: Zhao, Wang, Carstens). Peking University Press. 434 pp.
2013 New Questions, New Directions in Malaysian Chinese Studies. In 论文集：第一届马来西亚清华人研究双年会 (Collected Essays: Malaysian Chinese First Biennial Research Conference). Kuala Lumpur: Centre for Malaysian Chinese Studies. Pp. 15- 50.
2010. "Conceptualizing and Teaching Chinese Culture in K-8 Mandarin Bilingual Programs" Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association 43(3): 25-64.