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John Zinda

John Zinda

Assistant Professor

251A Warren Hall
(607) 255-1795

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.

Research Focus

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 Focus

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

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

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.