Li Zhang


Position Title
Professor of Anthropology



  • Ph.D., Anthropology, Cornell University, 1998 M.A., Social Relations, UC Irvine, 1993 M.A., B.A., Chinese Literature and Literary Theory, Peking University, 1990, 1987
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, Harvard University, 1998-1999


Li Zhang's research concerns the social, political, and psychological repercussions of market reforms and socialist transformations in contemporary China. Her earlier work traces the profound reconfigurations of space, power, and social networks within China's "floating population." Her second book examines the social and spatial implications of housing privatization and the making of China's urban middle classes. Her recent research project explores the "inner revolution" brought by the market transition through examining an emergent psychotherapy and psychological counseling movement in an anxious China. She is 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.

She served as Interim Dean of the Division of Social Sciences (2015-17), Chair of Anthropology Department (2011-15), and Director of East Asian Studies Program (2003-06) at UCD, and President of the Society for East Asian Anthropology (2013-15).

Research Focus

Urban studies (especially space-making, urban planning, and power dynamics); global middle-classes and consumption practices; mental health and well-being; selfhood and psychotherapeutic processes; aging and eldercare; labor migration; postsocialism; medical anthropology; science and technology studies; East Asia (especially China).

Selected Publications

  • Zhang, L. (2020) Anxious China: Inner Revolution and Politics of Psychotherapy. University of California Press.
  • Susan Greenhalgh and Zhang, L. (Eds) (2020) Can Science and Technology Save China? Cornell University Press.
  • Zhang, L. (2020) Embracing Psychological Science for the Good Life? in Can Science and Technology Save China? eds. by Susan Greenhalgh and Li Zhang, 50-68, University of California Press.
  • Zhang, L. and Elizabeth Davis (Eds) (2018) Special Issue: Global Side Effects: Precarity, Responsibility, and Mental Health, Medical Anthropology 37 (1).
  • Zhang, L. and Amy Borovoy (Eds) (2016) Special Issue: Between Biopolitical Governmance and Care, Medical Anthropology 36 (1).
  • Zhang, L. (2018) Cultivating the Therapeutic Self in China, Medical Anthropology 37 (1): 45-58.
  • Zhang, L. (2018) Convergence and Divergence among the Rich and the Poor, in Polarized Cities: Portraits of the Rich and Poor in Urban China, ad by Dorothy Solinger, Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Zhang, L. (2017) "Battle Over Green Space": Land Disputes, Rights Activism, and Emerging Publics in Urban China, in Popular Politics and the Quest for Justice in Contemporary China, ads by Brandtstadter & Steinmuller, 18-33. Routledge.
  • Zhang, L. (2016) The Rise of Therapeutic Governing in Postsocialist China, Medical Anthropology 36 (1): 6-18.
  • Zhang, L. and Amy Borovoy. (2016) Between Biopolitical Governance and Care: Rethinking Health, Selfhood, and Social Welfare in East Asia, Medical Anthropology 36 (1): 1-5.
  • Zhang, L. (2015) Cultivating Happiness: Psychotherapy, Spirituality, and Well-being in a Transforming Urban China, in Handbook of Religion and the Asian City, ed by Peter van der Veer, 315-332. UC Press.
  • Zhang, L. (2014) Bentuhua: Culturing Psychotherapy in Postsocialist China, Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 38 (2): 283-305.
  • Zhang, L. (2010) In Search of Paradise: Middle Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis, Cornell University Press (Winner of the 2011 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize by the Society of East Asian Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association; Winner of the 2012 Robert E. Park Award by the Community and Urban Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association). 中文版《大房子,小天堂》Forthcoming。
  • Zhang, L. and Aihwa Ong (Eds.) (2008) Privatizing China, Socialism from Afar. Cornell University Press.
  • Zhang, L. (2001) Strangers in the City: Reconfigurations of Space, Power, and Social Networks within China's Floating Population. Stanford University Press (Winner of the 2002 Robert E. Park Award by the Community & Urban Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association). 中文版《城市里的陌生人》江苏人民出版社 2013。


Li Zhang teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in the areas of anthropological theories, urban studies, medical and psychological anthropology, migration, development, and Chinese culture and political economy.


Li Zhang was a 2008-09 Guggenheim Fellow, and a 2004-05 UC Davis Chancellor's Fellow. She has won numerous awards throughout her career, including three prestigious book prizes: Winner of the 2012 Robert E. Park Book Award for her second book In Search of Paradise, Winner of the 2001 Robert E. Park Book Award for her first book Strangers in the City (both by the Community & Urban Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association), and Winner of the 2011 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize for In Search of Paradise (by the Society for East Asian Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association).