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
- Zinda, J., Li, Y., & Liu, J. (2018). China's Summons for Environmental Sociology. Current Sociology. 66:867-885.
- Zinda, J., & Zhang, Z. (2018). Stabilizing Forests and Communities: Accommodative Buffering within China’s Collective Forest Tenure Reform. China Quarterly. 235:828-848.
- Zinda, J., & Zhang, Z. (2018). Land Tenure Legacies, Household Life-Cycles, and Livelihood Strategies in Upland China. Rural Sociology. 83:51-80.
- 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., 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: an Interdisciplinary Journal. 42:739-751.
- Zinda, J. (2012). Hazards of Collaboration: Local State Co-optation of a New Protected Area Model in Southwest China. Society & 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
- Explaining Heterogeneous Afforestation Outcomes: How Community Officials and Households Mediate Tree Cover Change in China. Sustainability and Development Conference (SDC). November 2018. World Development Journal and the School for Environment and Sustainability, the International Institute Enterprise Fund, the African Studies Center, and the Provost’s office, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor, MI United States.
- Metabolic Fractures: How Household Livelihood Practices Differentiate Agricultural Input Use in Southwest China. Obstacles to Development: 7th Annual Sociology of Development Conference. October 2018. Section on the Sociology of Development, American Sociological Association. Urbana, IL.
- Ecological Civilization in the Mountains: Discourse and Practice in China’s Walnut Boom and Bust. Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. August 2018. American Sociological Association. Philadelphia.