Vice Dean Li Zhang

A Message from Vice Dean Zhang

I am honored and excited to serve as vice dean for the Division of Social Sciences. I agreed to take on this position because I care deeply about our division—the backbone of the university. This is a time of challenges and uncertainties, but it is also full of great opportunities as the College of Letters and Science transitions to a new, more cohesive structure.

My goals are to continue to attract and advance our excellent faculty, to create the conditions to stimulate and enhance research accomplishments, to develop new, exciting, and vigorous curricula to engage and prepare our students in today’s real-world challenges and opportunities, to ensure that our staff provide the highest level of innovative support to our academic mission.

In sum, it is my highest priority to help facilitate a smooth and efficient college restructuring while providing a solid, stable ground where innovative research, outstanding teaching, and passionate learning can continue to thrive.

I very much look forward to working with all of you in this endeavor.

Portrait photo of UC Davis anthropologist and interim dean of social sciences Li Zhang

Li Zhang is vice dean for social sciences, an anthropology professor and former chair of the Department of Anthropology.

She joined the UC Davis faculty in 1998, serving as director of the East Asian Studies Program in 2003–06, chair of the anthropology department’s sociocultural wing in 2007–08, and department chair in 2011–15.

She is the author of two acclaimed books on the social and spatial changes sweeping China, and is the co-editor of a third. She has written numerous scholarly articles, book chapters and essays on the middle class, mental health, migration, space, power, gender, selfhood and postsocialism in contemporary China.

Her most recent book, In Search of Paradise: Middle Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis (Cornell U Press, 2010), received both the Robert E. Park Book Award from the Community and Urban Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association and the Francis L. Hsu Book Prize from the Society of East Asian Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association.

Her first book, Strangers in the City: Reconfigurations of Space, Power, and Social Networks within China’s Floating Population (Stanford U Press, 2001), which examines the migration of millions of peasants into urban areas, also won a Robert E. Park Book Award. A Chinese translation of Strangers in the City has been published in China.

Combining anthropology, sociology, urban studies, and psychology, Zhang’s research is innovative, interdisciplinary, and influential. Her projects have been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Among her honors are a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008–09 and a UC Davis Chancellor’s Fellowship in 2004-05, both given to scholars for outstanding achievements in their fields, and a UC President’s Research Fellowship in the Humanities in 2001–02.

She served as the 2013-15 president of the Society for East Asian Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association. She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany, and is a co-editor for an Oxford University Press’ Issues of Globalization book series. She also served on the Cultural Anthropology Program Advisory/Review Panel for the National Science Foundation in 2006–09. A popular speaker, Zhang has been invited to address scholarly meetings and give lectures at various academic institutions in North America, China and Europe.

A native of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in southwest China, Zhang attended Peking University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Chinese language and literature in 1987 and a master’s degree in theory of literature and art in 1990. She received a master’s degree in social relations at UC Irvine in 1993. She completed her Ph.D. in anthropology at Cornell University in 1998 and spent a year as a postdoctoral researcher at the Fairbank Center of Harvard University.

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