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Li Zhang

Li Zhang

Interim Dean

Division of Social Sciences


PhD, Cornell University, 1998

325 Young Hall Department of Anthropology
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, California 95616, USA

Fax: (530) 752-8885

Office Hours for Spring 2015 :

  • By appointment via email



I received my doctoral degree in anthropology from Cornell University in 1998 and a M.A. degree in social relations from UC Irvine in 1993. Before coming to the U.S., I studied Chinese literature and literary theory at Peking University and received my B.A. and first M.A. there. I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, Harvard University (1998--1999).


Urban studies (especially space-making, urban planning, and power dynamics); global middle-classes and consumption practices; mental health and well-being; selfhood and therapeutic processes; labor migration; postsocialism; critique of neoliberalism; East Asia (especially China).


Broadly speaking my research concerns the social, political, and cultural repercussions of market reform and socialist transformations in contemporary China. My earlier work traces the profound reconfigurations of space, power, and social networks within China's "floating population" under late socialism and globalization. Recently I have completed my second book that examines the social and spatial implications of housing privatization and the making of the new middle classes in urban China. I have also co-edited a volume with Aihwa Ong, which explores how social technologies of privatization and neoliberalism articulate with diverse areas of life and politics in China. My current new research project explores the "inner revolution" brought by the market transition through examining an emergent psychotherapy and psychological counseling movement in Chinese cities. I am interested in how Western psychological formulations of the person through talk therapy articulate with local cultural notions of a socially embedded selfhood and neoliberal notions of self-care and self-management.

I was a 2008 Guggenheim Fellow. My research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright-Hays, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Committee on Scholarly Communication with China, and the University of California President's Office among others.



2010  In Search of Paradise: Middle Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis, Cornell University Press (Winner of the 2011 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize, presented by the Society of East Asian Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association; Winner of the 2012 Robert E. Park Award presented by the Community and Urban Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association).

2008  Privatizing China, Socialism from Afar, edited by Li Zhang and Aihwa Ong, Cornell University Press.

2001  Strangers in the City: Reconfigurations of Space, Power, and Social Networks within China’s Floating Population. Stanford: Stanford University Press (Winner of the 2002 Robert E. Park Award, presented by the Community & Urban Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association).

Recent Articles and Book Chapters

2017  "The Rise of Therapeutic Governing in Postsocialist China," Medical Anthropology 36 (1): 6-18.

2017  "Between Biopolitical Governance and Care: Rethinking Health, Selfhood, and Social Welfare in East Asia," (co-authored with Amy Borovoy) Medical Anthropology 36 (1): 1-5.

2015 "Cultivating Happiness: Psychotherapy, Spirituality, and Well-Being in a Transforming Urban China," in Handbook of Religion and the Asian City: Aspiration and Urbanization in the Twenty First Century, 315-332, edited by Peter van der Veer, University of California Press.

2014 "Bentuhua: Culturing Psychotherapy in Postsocialist China," Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 38 (2): 283-305.

2012 "Flexible Postsocialist Assemblages from the Margin," Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique.

2010 "Postsocialist Urban Dystopia?" in Noir Urbanism: Dystopic Images of Modern Cities, edited by Gyan Prakash. Princeton University Press.

2010  "Articulating Middle-Class Culture, Consumption, and Postsocialism," Dialectical Anthropology.

2009  "Chinese Workers Confront Capitalist Labour Relations," Labour/La Travail Vol. 63: 221-229.

2008  "China's Ascent As a Theoretial Question," AAA Anthropology News, November.

2008  "Introduction: Privatizing China: Powers of the Self, Socialism from Afar," (co-authored with Aihwa Ong) in Privatizing China, Socialism from Afar, edited by Li Zhang and Aihwa Ong, Cornell University Press.

2008  "Private Homes, Distinct Lifestyles: Performing a New Middle-Class," in Privatizing China, Socialism from Afar, edited by Li Zhang and Aihwa Ong, Cornell University Press.

2006  "Contesting Spatial Modernity in Late Socialist China," Current Anthropology, 47 (3): 461-484.

2006  "From the Mountains and the Fields: The Urban Transition in the Anthropology of China" (co-authored with Alan Smart). China Information Vol XX (3): 481-518.

2004  "Forced From Home: Property Rights, Civic Activism, and the Politics of Relocation in China," Urban Anthropology, Vol 33(2-4): 247-81.

2002 “Spatiality and Urban Citizenship in Late Socialist China,” Public Culture 14 (2): 311-334.

2002 “Urban Experiences and Social Belonging among Chinese Rural Migrants” in Popular China: Unofficial Culture in a Globalizing Society, 275-299, Perry Link, Richard Madsen, Paul Pickowicz, eds. The Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

2001 “Migration and Privatization of Space and Power in Late Socialist China.” American Ethnologist 28 (1): 179-205.

2001 “Contesting Crime, Order and Migrant Spaces in Beijing” in Ethnographies of the Urban in Contemporary China, 201-222, Nancy Chen et al, eds. Durham: Duke University Press.

2000 “The Interplay of Gender, Space, and Work among China’s Floating Population” in Re-Drawing Boundaries: Work, Household, and Gender in China, 171-196, Gail Henderson and Barbara Entwisle, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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Dept. of Anthropology

328 Young Hall
One Shields Ave.
University of California
Davis, Ca 95616-8522

Ph.  530-752-0745
Fax. 530-752-8885