John Zinda studies social and environmental change, primarily in rural China. His research and teaching examine how state policies and community practices intersect to shape livelihoods and landscapes in contexts of agricultural development programs, afforestation efforts, biodiversity conservation, tourism operations, and labor migration.
As an environmental sociologist, I study how people make and respond to environmental change and how groups of people do or do not work out concerns about the material world. My research focuses on the transformations that accompany efforts to change rural livelihoods and conserve natural resources in China. Drawing from scholarship in environmental sociology, political ecology, and coupled natural and human systems, I join social and biophysical data to understand how changing livelihoods and state-society relationships articulate with dynamic ecologies in the context of major environmental protection efforts.
Teaching sociology is a challenging exercise in citizenship. My aim is to work together with students to understand how social and environmental worlds work and to evaluate claims people make about social and environmental affairs. That means collectively tackling historical events and contemporary patterns in ways that help students develop constructive critical thinking, statistical literacy, empathetic understanding of the lives of people in differing social contexts, and the ability to make and defend sound arguments that are vital to civic life. My teaching focuses on relationships between environmental and socioeconomic change, globally and in China.
Awards and Honors
- A.H. Kolb Award (2013) Department of Community and Environmental Sociology, University of Wisconsin - Madison
- Zhang, Z., Zinda, J., & Li, W. (2017). Forest Transitions in Chinese Villages: Explaining Community-Level Variation under the Returning Farmland to Forest Program. Land Use Policy. 64:245-257.
- Zinda, J., & Zhang, Z. (2017). Land Tenure Legacies, Household Life-Cycles, and Livelihood Strategies in Upland China. Rural Sociology.
- Zinda, J., Trac, C. J., & Harrell, S. (2017). Dual-Function Forests in the Returning Farmland to Forest Program and the Flexibility of Environmental Policy in China. Geoforum. 78:119–132.
- Zinda, J. (2017). Tourism Dynamos: Selective Commodification and Developmental Conservation in China’s Protected Areas. Geoforum. 78:141–152.
- Lazos, E., Zinda, J., Bennett-Curry, A., Balvanera, P., Bloomfield, G., Lindell, C., & Negra, C. (2016). Stakeholders and Tropical Reforestation: Challenges, Tradeoffs, and Strategies in Dynamic Environments. Biotropica. 48:900-914.
- Zinda, J., Yang, J., Xue, X., & Cheng, H. (2014). Varying Impacts of Tourism Participation on Natural Resource Use in Communities in Southwest China. Human Ecology. 42:739-751.
- Zinda, J. (2012). Hazards of Collaboration: Local State Co-optation of a New Protected Area Model in Southwest China. Society and Natural Resources. 25:384-399.
- Zinda, J. (2014). Making National Parks in Yunnan: Shifts and Struggles within the Ecological State. p. Chapter 4 Mapping Shangrila: Contested Landscapes in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands Yeh, Emily and Coggins, Christopher, eds. (ed.), University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA.
Presentations and Activities
- Too Dear to Eat: The Changing Place of the Walnut in Northwest Yunnan. Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference. March 2017. Association for Asian Studies. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.