Personal profile

Research interests

Juan Zhang is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, UoB.

Prior to Bristol, Juan held research and teaching positions at the University of Queensland (Australia), University of New England (Australia), and the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore (NUS).

Juan’s research explores borders and transnational mobilities in various forms – from memories and livelihoods at the margins of China and Vietnam, to the global flows of labour and capital in and out of Asian casino spaces; from transnational marriages and family life to Asian migrant im/mobilities under differentiated pandemic governance. 

Broadly speaking, Juan’s research engages with three main themes: Asian Borderlands, Migrant Im/mobilities & Transnationalism, Transnational Cultural Politics & China.

Research interests

1) Asian Borderlands

Borders matter because they create unique connections and ruptures across diverse communities and geographies. The re-opening of frontiers has unleashed a development frenzy evident in new railways, road networks, import/export zones, trading ports, markets and casinos. And sudden border closures challenges assumptions on frictionless travels and the right to freedom of movement.

My work on borders started at the margins of China and Vietnam, with a particular focus on everyday cross-border interactions as a catalyst for local and regional socioeconomic transformation. My co-edited open-access book The Art of Neighbouring: Making Relations Across China's Borders (2017, University of Amsterdam Press) presents the different ways in which borderland communities at national peripheries deploy the "art of neighbouring" and build new forms of solidarity and collaboration.

I serve the editorial board of Journal of Borderlands Studies (2020-2025). I am also a core committee member of the Asian Borderlands Research Network (ABRN). At ABRN, we organise international conferences with an Asian partner every two years. The next ABRN conference “Borderland Futures: Technologies, Zones, Co-existences” will take place in June 2022 in Seoul, South Korea.   

My other writing on borders include:

2021. “Casinos as special zones: Speculative development on nation’s edge”, in Chettri, M., and Eilenberg, M., (eds) Development zones in Asian borderlands, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

2018. “Permissive politics and entrepreneurial transgression in a Chinese border townSojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 33(3): 576-601.

2016. “Ambivalent encounters: business and the sex markets at the China-Vietnam borderland”, in Tan, D., and Nyiri, P. (eds) How Chinese engagements are changing Southeast Asia: People, money, ideas, and their effects, pp.142-167, Seattle: Washington University Press. (With Caroline Grillot)

2014. “Remote proximity,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 4(1) https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.14318/hau4.1.020

2013. “The 1979 Sino-Vietnamese border war and (post-) cold war cultural politics in late-socialist China,” in Miran Kim 김미란 (ed), 이동하는 아시아 (Asia on the move), pp. 230-270. Seoul: Green Bee 그린비. [translated in Korean]

2013. “Neighbouring in anxiety along the China-Vietnam border,” in Hyunjoon Shin 신현존(ed), 아시아의 접촉지대 (Asia’s Contact Zones), pp. 45-73. Seoul: Green Bee 그린비. [translated in Korean]

2012. “A trafficking ‘not-spot’ in a China-Vietnam border town,” in Ford, M., Lyons, L., and van Schendel, W. (eds) Labour migration and human trafficking in Southeast Asia: Critical perspectives, pp. 95-111. London: Routledge.

Research interests

2) Migrant Im/mobilities & Transnationalism

Migrant im/mobilities have been a key focus of my work across a range of research topics and areas. I began with an exploration on ethnic boundaries in public spaces drawn by Filipina and Thai domestic workers in Singapore, and continued working with both skilled and unskilled migrant workers, marriage migrants, and transient migrants in Singapore and the Philippines. I am particularly interested in the biopolitical regimes around migrant bodies and their transnational mobility actions, and migrant encounters with various forms of physical and symbolic borders along lines of gender, ethnicity and class.

I coordinate the “Trade, Labour, Capital” Research Challenge at Migration Mobilities Bristol.

I currently serve as Associate Editor and editorial board member for three peer-reviewed international journals with my research background and expertise: Journal of Family Studies (2020-2025), Critical Gambling Studies (2020-2025), and Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration (2017-2022).

Check out some of my published work on transnational migration and mobilities in and beyond Asia:

Forthcoming 2022. “Transnational marriage migration in Asia and its friction”, in Yeoh, B.S.A., and Collins, F., (eds) Handbook on transnationalism, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

2020. “Searching for oriental simplicity: foreign brides and the Asian family in SingaporeGender Place & Culture 27(10): 1415-1437.

2019. “To move or not to move: mobility decision-making in the context of welfare conditionality and paid employmentMobilities 14(5): 596-611

2019. “The moral economy of casino work in Singapore” in Hoang, L.A. and Alipio, C. (eds) Money and moralities in contemporary Asia, pp. 39-58, Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press.

2019. “Ethnic migrants and casinos in Singapore and Macau”, in Ratuva, S. (ed) The Palgrave handbook of ethnicity, pp. 1-20, Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan.

2018. “Mobilities on edge: Migration at the margins of nation-states,” in Liu-Farrer, G., and Yeoh, B.S.A., (eds) Routledge handbook of Asian migrations, pp. 288-298, London and New York: Routledge.

2017. Themed Issue on “Integrated mega-casinos and speculative urbanism in Southeast Asia”, Pacific Affairs 90(4).

2017. “The state of fun? Exclusive casino urbanism and its biopolitical borders in Singapore”, Pacific Affairs 90(4): 701-723. (Honourable Mention for the William L. Holland Prize)

2017. “Self-fashioning exceptionality: Flexible workers in Singapore’s casino resortsAsian Anthropology 16(1): 4-19.

2016. “Multiple mobilities and entrepreneurial modalities of Chinese marriage migrants in MalaysiaCurrent Sociology 64 (3): 411-429.

2015. “Harnessing exception: Mobilities, credibility, and the casino,” Environment and Planning A 48(6): 1064-1081.

2015. “Cross-border marriage, transgovernmental friction, and waiting,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 33 (2): 229-246.

2014. “Still ‘breadwinners’ and ‘providers’: Singaporean husbands, money, and masculinity in transnational marriages,” Gender, Place and Culture 22(6): 867-883.

2009. “Navigating transnationalism: immigration and reconfigured ethnicity,” in Welsh, B., et al. (eds) Impressions of the Goh Chok Tong years in Singapore, pp. 305-316. Singapore: NUS Press.

Research interests

3) Transnational Cultural Politics & China

I am particularly interested in transnational cultural politics in and out of China, how ideas, representation, emotions and actions connect both virtually and physically. I have written on Chinese nationalism and Chinese mobilities across various cultural and social spheres. My latest work centres on China’s pandemic control responses and their impact on citizens and migrants alike.

Have a look here:

2020. “If I wear a face mask, everyone treats me like a disease”: the mask debate”, Oxford COMPAS Coronavirus and Mobility Forum.

2014. “‘Walled’ activism: Transnational social movements and the politics of Chinese cyber-public space,” International Development Planning Review 36 (1): 111-132.

2010. “China’s cosmopolitan nationalists: ‘Heroes’ and ‘traitors’ of the 2008 Olympics,” The China Journal 63: 25-55.

Structured keywords and research groupings

  • Migration Mobilities Bristol

Keywords

  • Mobility
  • Migration
  • Labour
  • Urbanism
  • Asia
  • Borders
  • Casinos
  • Subjectivity
  • Control
  • Flexibility
  • Governmentality

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