VICKIE ZHANG


cultural geographer

affect, mobilities, work
negativity 
economic + affective transitions









IAG Film Shorts
KSCA
SCGRG

Bristol
Scholar
Twitter
ABOUT

I am a cultural geographer interested in the intensities and energetics of ordinary life in times of economic change. In the broadest sense, my research explores how economic transitions are lived as embodied transitions, focussing on the lifeworlds of industrial and migrant workers in Australia and China.

I combine theories of affect and mobility with qualitative fieldwork and diverse forms of storytelling, including documentary film. I am particularly interested in the politics of dislocation and memory in the present, grounded in non-representational theories of subjectivity and embodiment. Rather than seeing memory as regressive or stuck in the past, I explore the turbulent impasse of what might be called ‘negative’ geographies of the subject — of melancholy, loss and rupture — alongside a more ‘affirmative’ belief in the possibilities of the future — of adjustment, transformation and desire.

My recent research explores these durations of affective transition through the micropolitics of workplace closures, tracking how workers affected by two coal mine closures navigated subsequent durations of loss and adjustment. A prior project followed decisions to return home amongst rural migrant workers in a village in northern China, situating these floating transitions at the intersection of mobilities and social reproduction. Bringing these interests together, I am currently developing a new project tracking migrant workers’ affective responses to industrial change and closure in southern China, in a broader context of global and national economic slowdown. 


I was born and raised in Naarm/Melbourne, Australia — on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation — by migrant parents from Guangzhou, China. Geography has been my way of making sense of this inherited dislocation — of the cascading and contradictory effects of desires once had, and decisions made long ago, to depart one’s home in search of other worlds. In my teaching, I hope to inspire students to see the value of geographical knowledges within their own pursuits of sense-making and world-building.

Alongside teaching and research, I work at the intersection of geography and creative practice. I am a member of the Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation, a collective of artists and writers experimenting with adaptive cultural change, and co-organise IAG Film Shorts with Lisa Palmer and Jane Dyson. I am currently Treasurer of the RGS-IBG Social and Cultural Geography Research Group.

I am employed as Lecturer in the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol. I am currently also a Visiting Fellow at the School of Geography and Remote Sensing, Guangzhou University. Previously, I was Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, National University of Singapore. I completed my PhD in the School of Geography, the University of Melbourne in 2021, after a first year spent in the School of Sociology, Australian National University. My undergraduate studies, also at the University of Melbourne, were in Geography and German.
12/2023