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Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Sydney

Since completing an undergraduate degree in Chinese Studies at Georgetown University, I have studied social and political change during China's long 20th century. I have lived, worked, and studied in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for many years, including spending 18 months in Beijing (1999-2001) for my PhD fieldwork research, and a year in Nanjing (2007-2008) for a subsequent fieldwork project in a vocational secondary school.

I hold a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, an M.Ed. from Harvard, and was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute for East Asian Studies at the University of California-Berkeley.

I am an urban anthropologist whose work has focused on the ways that macro-level changes in China's politics and economic policies have an impact on people's everyday lives. My first research project was an 18-month ethnographic study of a new form of post-socialist social engineering in contemporary China, called "educational for quality" (素质教育 suzhi jiaoyu). This work appeared in a number of edited volumes and journals including positions, Anthropological Quarterly, and Ethnography.

My recent book Class Work: Vocational Schools and China’s Urban Youth (2015, Stanford University Press) is based on a second research project in Nanjing (2007-2008). Funded by the US National Academy of Education, this study focused on urban working-class youth cultures and new class formations in Chinese vocational schools.

I have two new research projects underway. One, following on the previous study of vocational education and working-class youth, looks at gendered working-class labour regimes in urban China. Focusing on Shanghai, this studies the ways that transformations in urban space are mirrored in transformations in the bodies of working-class women. This project is a collaboration with two colleagues who work in India and Brazil, building towards a comparative urban study of these three countries.

My second current research project looks at the cultural politics of climate change in Australia, using the Adani Corporation’s proposed Carmichael mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin as a case study. In collaboration with Dr Benedetta Brevini in MECO, I am publishing new work on the discourses of climate change, the cultural politics of coal mining in Australia, and the ways environmental law is deployed by environmentalists and the state.


  • –present
    Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Sydney