Professional and Biographical Information


Ph.D., Development Studies, China Agricultural University (co-advised at Cornell University’s Department of Development Sociology), 2017
M.A., Political Theory, Beijing Normal University, 2012
B.A., Public Policy and Administration, Henan Normal University, 2009

Research Interests

My scholarship is rooted in China but globally oriented, and my disciplinary approach is shaped primarily by development sociology and ethnographic methods, engaging with the interdisciplinary fields of public health, feminist political ecology, food, agrarian, development, and environmental studies.

My first book, The Origins of COVID-19: China and Global Capitalism (Stanford 2021) is a study of the roots of the current pandemic in the entanglement of Chinese authoritarianism and global capitalism, which sacrifices the environment and vulnerable populations in ways that increase the risk of zoonosis (the emergence of diseases that “spill over” from animals to humans). This research builds upon my longstanding scholarship on rural development and public health governance in China, which I continue to develop in my current book project, titled Food Safety and Environmental Justice in China. This manuscript, a long-term ethnography of two villages in China, examines how differences in gender and ethnicity articulate with strategies for environmental justice and health governance. 

I am also Co-PI of an interdisciplinary project awarded $1 million dollars by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture–USDA to examine disruptions to food supply chains due to the COVID-19 pandemic in California, Florida, and the Midwest. We are adapting surveys developed for climate change-induced disruptions of agricultural production by incorporating greater attention to issues of race/ethnicity, gender, and resilience along the entire food supply chain. Beyond a mere impact assessment, we are analyzing the emergence of alternative food networks that enable vulnerable and marginalized actors (primarily women and racialized minorities) to adapt during this crisis, and co-designing resources and strategies for cultivating greater resilience during future disturbances. 

Prior to joining Amherst College, I was a visiting scholar at Cornell University’s Department of Development Sociology (now Global Development), assistant professor of sociology at Henan Agricultural University, and visiting assistant professor of global studies at the University of California, Irvine.

Teaching Interests

I have the privilege of teaching across two very vibrant and dynamic departments, and my courses not only engage topics that I am deeply passionate about, but also tackle some of the most pressing issues of our generation. This is evident in my courses on Food and the Environment (ENST-270 / SOCI 270) and Pandemics and Society: The Socio-Ecological Construction of Infectious Diseases throughout History (SOCI 306 / ENST 306). I will also teach an introduction to development sociology, titled What is Development?: Rethinking Solutions for Health, Sustainability, and Global Justice (SOCI 220), an advanced survey of China and Environmental Governance (ENST 360), and a crucial course on Qualitative Research Methods for Environmental Studies (ENST 380). I emphasize discussion, research, writing assignments, and creative projects that break down the barriers between “classroom” and the world in which we live, and I am very enthusiastic about mentoring students and connecting them to my own research projects.

Previously, I taught Introduction to Development Sociology at Henan Agricultural University (in both English and Mandarin), where I received the Best Mentor Award from the College of Humanities and Law. I also taught Global Food and the Environment, Post-Socialism in China, Russia, and Tanzania, and Global Pandemics at the University of California, Irvine, and received an Outstanding Teaching Award for each of these courses from the UC Irvine School of Social Sciences. I was also awarded as Faculty Mentor of the Month by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program at UC Irvine.

Selected Publications


Zhang, L. (2021) The Origins of COVID-19: China and Global Capitalism. Stanford University Press. 

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles and Book Chapters in English

Woodworth, M., (Names in alphabetical order after first author) Ren, X., Rodenbiker, J., Santi., E., Tan, Y., Zhang, L., and Zhou, Y. (2022). “Researching China during a period of COVID-19 travel restrictions.” In COVID-19 and a World of Ad Hoc Geographies, S. Brunn and D. Gilbreath (eds.), Springer. In Press. 

Zhang, L. (2022). “China’s state and social media narratives about Brazil during the COVID-19 pandemic.” In The Tropical Silk Road: The Future of China in South America, P. Amar, L. Rofel, F. Brancoli, M. Viteri, and C. Fernandez (eds.), Stanford University Press. In press. 

Zhang, L. (2021). “China and the UN Food System Summit: Silenced Disputes and Ambivalence on Food Safety, Sovereignty, Justice, and Resilience.” Development 64(3 – 4): 303 – 307. 

Zhang, L. (2021). “The political ecology of maize in China: National food security and reclassification from staple to industrial crop.” In The Political Ecology of Industrial Crops, A. Ahmed and A. Gasparatos (eds.), London: Routledge, pp. 221 – 243. 

Zhang, L. (2021) “Global feminist discourses during the 1960s: A critical comparison of China, Brazil, France, and the United States.” In Global Studies Review, Changgang Guo (eds). Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press (China). In press. 

Zhang, L. (2020). “From left behind to leader: Gender, agency, and food sovereignty in China.Agriculture and Human Values 37(4): 1111 – 1123. 

Zhang, L. and Qi, G.B. (2019). “Bottom-up self-protection responses to China’s food safety crisis”. Canadian Journal of Development Studies 40(1): 113 – 130. 

Qi, G.B., Cook, S., and Zhang, L. (2015). “Ecological agriculture in Henan province: A portrait of Nanmazhuang village.” In Multiple Pathways: Cases studies of sustainable agriculture in China. S. Cook and L. Buckley (eds). London: IIED, pp. 15 – 35. 

Zhang, L. and Sun, J. (2014). “Innovative paths and models for the development of Beijing’s modern urban agriculture by the Agricultural Science City.” Social Sciences of Beijing (07): 91 – 95. 

Sun, J. and Zhang, L. (2013). “Growing Common: Fact and future of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Journal of China Executive Leadership Academy Yan’An, 6(02): 42 – 47. 

Sun, J. and Zhang, L. (2012). “Theoretical basis for the initiation of China’s political party system.” Journal of China Executive Leadership Academy Yan’An, 5(06): 5 – 13. 

Zhang, L. (2008). “Study on the construction of public crisis management of Chinese governments during the transitional period: A perspective from the ‘5.12’ Wenchuan earthquake.” Legal System and Society (28): 272. 

Zhang, L. (2008). “Analysis on values and social identity of university-graduate village officials.” Legal System and Society (26): 309.