I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land where I live and work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.

I am a cultural geographer from Melbourne, Australia. My research explores the changing lives of workers in transforming economies. I explore economic transitions as embodied experiences, through qualitative methods and postphenomenological theories of embodiment, with a particular focus on carbon transitions in China and Australia.

Situated across cultural and economic geography, my research brings theories of affect, subjectivity and embodiment in cultural geography to bear on empirical studies of economic life. It explores questions being raised across geography and the social sciences around embodiment and what it means to be human—issues such as the distributed constitution of the body, relations between self and others, postphenomenologies of sensory experience and the plastic limits of the subject— alongside conditions of sectoral restructuring and economic change. Conceptually, I think with antifoundational theories of experience to understand how everyday capacities, orientations and experiences are being reshaped within contemporary economies. Methodologically, this involves working with non-representational methods and styles of presentation, including documentary film.

In 2021, I completed my PhD in the School of Geography, The University of Melbourne. My PhD research studies the experiences of workers affected by coalmine closures in regional Australia and China, exploring the embodied transitions for workers and their families after workplace closure and loss. By exploring how these lines of time become disordered and rearranged through events of disruption to relations, routines and subjectivities, my thesis ultimately investigates how people might weather the crisis of job loss such that they regain a sense of life as an ‘ordinary’ timespace, reorienting from the past to the future. For this project, I held an Australian Government RTP Scholarship, Endeavour Research Fellowship and the Elizabeth and Vernon Puzey Scholarship from The University of Melbourne. I originally began this PhD project at the wonderful School of Sociology, Australian National University.

Prior to my PhD, my Honours research considered the movement of migrant workers in rural China through the lenses of mobility and social reproduction, exploring the life of labour in China’s export-oriented economy through the material, affective and corporeal flows that link local lives to global flows. My undergraduate studies, also at The University of Melbourne, were in Geography and German; as part of these degrees, I spent a year on exchange at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Alongside research and teaching, I am a member of the Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation and recently co-edited the Artist, Farmer, Scientist project publication (with Laura Fisher and Lucas Ihlein). From 2018 to 2020, I served as PhD co-convenor of the Cultural Geography Study Group of the Institute of Australian Geographers, and from 2019 to 2020helped to run the Geography Artist in Residence Program at The University of Melbourne. With Lisa Palmer and Jane Dyson, I currently co-organise the annual IAG Film Shorts.

If you’d like to get in touch, please drop me a line at vickie.zhang@unimelb.edu.au.


Image: Screenshot from a video recorded onsite at Bruce and Serana Hunt-Hughes’ property in Violet Town, Victoria, for a weaving grass planting day with 2018–2019 School of Geography Artist in Residence Museum Incognita.