Professor Bender specializes in traditional performance and performance-connected literature of China, including local Han and ethnic minority cultures. He teaches Chinese and East Asian culture courses, a course on Traditional Performance in Contemporary East Asia, an introduction to folklore in East Asia, and seminars that have included ethnic minority epic, Chinese prosimetric literature, and oral and written ethnic poetry. Bender has published on numerous subjects, including Suzhou professional storytelling (pingtan) and the oral and written literatures of several Chinese minority cultures, such as the Yi, Miao (Hmong), and Daur. His books include Plum and Bamboo: China's Suzhou Chantefable Tradition (University of Illinois Press, 2003), Butterfly Mother: Miao (Hmong) Creation Epics from Guizhou Province, China (Hackett Publishing, 2006), The Columbia Anthology of Chinese Folk and Popular Literature, edited with Victor Mair (2011), The Borderlands of Asia: Culture, Poetry, Place (Cambria Press, 2017), and the forthcoming Nuosu Book of Origins: A Creation Epic from southwest China (University of Washington Press, 2019). A recent article is, "Landscapes and Life-forms in Cosmographic Epics from Southwest China," Chinese Literature Today 5(2):88-97. Other articles reflect his interests in the folklore and contemporary eco-literature of southwest China and North East India.