Dr Juan Zhang

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

School of Social Science
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+61 7 336 51213


Juan Zhang is a Research Fellow in Anthropology and Sociology at the School of Social Science. She joined the School in November 2016. Prior to UQ, she was a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of New England, and a Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.

Juan received her PhD in Anthropology in 2011 at Macquarie University. Her doctoral research provided an ethnography on strategies of survival of communities living at the margins of China and Vietnam, especially how their cross-border interactions became a catalyst for local and regional social transformation. After PhD, Juan continued her research on borders and experiences of bordering, and co-edited a book The Art of Neighbouring: Making Relations Across China's Borders (2017, University of Amsterdam Press) that presented the different ways in which marginalized communities at national borders deploy the “art of neighbouring” and build new forms of solidarity and collaboration (see e-book).

Apart from borders, Juan's research expertise has been building around gender and transgression in relation to migration and the governance of mobility. Her research focused on the regime of control on gendered, migrant bodies, and developed theorization on exclusion as a deliberate outcome of transnational policy processes. Her work has been published by Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Environment and Planning A, Current Sociology, Gender, Place and Culture, the China Journal, and International Development Planning Review.

Her latest project "Casino Mobilities" investigated the Asian casino boom and casino-led labour migration in Southeast Asia. It was the first academic enquiry that looked into the emerging casino industry in the Asian context, and its effect on migration, citizenship, regulation, and consumption. She is also the co-investigator of the Macau-based project "Casino and Development in Asia" which interrogates the politics of casino as development in different Asian societies.

Juan serves the editorial board of Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration.

Research Interests

  • Borders and Transgressions
    One of my on-going research interests since PhD is the ways in which borders (physical and symbolic) produce conditions of exclusion and marginality, and how individuals in these conditions practise various forms of transgressive strategies that both challenge and reinforce border regimes. Illegal border crossings, alternative livelihoods, moral negotiations are all part of the everyday experiences of living on edge. My work on borders started at the China-Vietnam borderland, on the drastic social and economic transformations after the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese border war. My more recent work touches on the emerging casino and gambling operations at various borderlands across Southeast Asia (e.g. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) in the name of frontier modernisation and development.
  • Mobility and Gender
    I am particularly interested in gender and its effect on mobile practices and mobile identities. Having worked with cross-border traders in China and Vietnam, female marriage migrants in Singapore and Malaysia, and mobile casino workers in Singapore, Macau and the Philippines, I use gender as a useful analytical lens to examine why people make certain choices and develop particular strategies. Gender is key to unveil how male traders bond with business partners at the border, why women from underprivileged background migrate to get married to strangers, and how the casino industry “feminises” transnational service work, and “masculinises” global VIP games.
  • Governmentality and Self-Care
    My overall theoretical interest is governmentality its effect on the self, particularly how one embraces the logic and develops strategies to take care the self. Placing it on a transnational scale, my focus has been on the ways in which different notions of care come to inform individual actions. The care discourse often translates into a common language of development and “better life” that legitimises the regime of control, exclusionary politics, and self-centred pragmatism. This theoretical focus has informed my writing on borders, migration, and now on casino capitalism that is rapidly changing social and political life in the Asia Pacific.


  • Bachelor Engineer in Urban Planning, Wuhan University
  • Master Social Sciences, National University of Singapore
  • PhD, Macquarie University


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Book Chapter

Journal Article