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About Xia Zhang

Xia Zhang is a cultural anthropologist and Chinese folklorist. She does research on globalization, urbanization, migration, gender (esp. masculinity), new media, youth culture, and recently on family and mental health in China and East Asia. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011, and earned her MA in Chinese Folklore from Beijing Normal University.

She is currently working on multiple research projects. She is preparing her dissertation “Carrying Out Modernity: Work, Migration, and Masculinity” as a book manuscript for publication in the US. Her dissertation examines the “bangbang army,” about half a million Chinese rural migrant men who work as porters and carriers in the metropolis of Chongqing, southwest China. It investigates how local history, cultural logics of urban development, and changing gender ideology in post-reform China have come together to shape these migrant men’s experience of gender and labor inequalities in post-reform China.

She recently started a new project. Tentatively titled as “Parents Are Poison: Child Abuse, New Media, and Anti-Parent Sentiments in China,” it examines over 118 thousand Chinese adult children who, by using western developmental psychology and family therapy theories, explicitly accuse their parents of misdemeanors such as physical abuse and sex discrimination on one of China’s most popular social network websites, When the revival of Confucianism made a strong comeback in post-reform China, and as the Chinese government fervently advocates the Confucian doctrine of filial piety in the realms of moral education, such outcry from self-identified child abuse victims carries exceptional weight and significance. Drawing on data collected from ethnographic fieldwork in China and online postings, this project investigates the complexity of the cultural understanding of child abuse and neglect in contemporary China. It also scrutinizes the role that the new media play in in provoking a new imaginary of parenting and family ethics within China’s unique political and cultural context. 

Another ongoing research project of hers explores China’s unemployed or underemployed well-educated Chinese young adults who live in urban slums in major cities. This project examines how global capitalism taps into young people’s innovative aspiration for profit and how the young generation uses new media to intervene in China’s radical social transformation and labor market deregulation. 


2015 Present Adjunct Assistant Professor, Portland State University Anthropology
Present Adjunct Assistant Professor, Portland State University College of Urban and Public Affairs
2015 Departmental Affiliate, Portland State University Anthropology

Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

Articles (5)

Contributions to Books (4)

Dissertation (1)