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Qian Zhang


Visa sidan på svenska
Works at Department of Human Geography
Telephone 08-16 48 44
Visiting address Svante Arrhenius väg 8
Room X 408
Postal address Kulturgeografiska institutionen 106 91 Stockholm


Lectures, seminars, lab exercises and administration in courses

  • at both undergraduate level and graduate level
  • with themes on population geography, migration, natural resource management, political ecology, planning and methods
  • with both qualititave and quantitative methods

Involvement in courses at the undergraduate level

  • Geografiska strukturer och samhälle
  • Globala processer
  • Challenges of Planning in the Global South
  • Swedish Geography
  • Essay on Swedish Geography
  • Befolkningsgeografi
  • Kvantitativa metoder i Samhällsplanering II
  • Ekonomiska geogafi
  • Omvärldanalys
  • Miljöutmaningar i ett samhällsperspektiv
  • Vetenskapsfilosofi
  • Befolkning, utveckling och globalisering

Involvement in courses at the graduate level

  • Political Ecology – Land Use and Natural Resources in a Local to Global Perspective
  • Planning Practicies in Cities and Regions
  • Urbanisation and the Environment
  • Migration and Social Change
  • History of Geographical Thoughts


Theses in geography at the undergraduate level and theses in the master program of "Globalisation, Environment and Social Change".


My research interests have developed along two paths. The first is to examine the human-environment relationship from political ecology and historical perspectives. Such an interest intersects with the themes of environmental governance, migration, land use and rural development (including both agricultural and pastoral communities). The second is to make sense of domestic and global circulations of people. The interests have been explored in diverse contexts including resettlement programmes in China, labour migration from China and Sweden and agricultural restructuring in Sweden.


Current projects

Linking food, migrants and entrepreneurship in the era of the gig economy

This project is collaborated with Dr. Natasha Webster and in the early phase. Against the background of increasing debate over the gig economy, we aim to explore the intersection of food mediated through digital platforms with integration, migrant precarity and public and private spaces. A pilot case study has been done to focus on a food app in Stockholm, Sweden.

The project will be further developed and expanded from the pilot study and is seeking for support from research grants.


Previous projects

Land tenure, peri-urban agriculture and agricultural geography

This project is collaborated with Associate Professor Anders Wästfelt.

A lot of research has been done on land tenure and an institutional approach is very strong among policy-makers. While international organisations and economists believe that clear land tenure is fundamental for promoting agricultural development, social scientists have shown that reforms for clarifying land ownership have raised unexpected conflicts in local communities. On the other hand, research suggest that land lease markets have become very common, which unfortunately are made use of by land grabbing activities and marginalise indigenous agricultural production.

So what is the role of land tenure in agricultural development? How can geography help to interpret its role? This research takes these questions to explore an empirical case from Sweden where the historical evolution of land tenure has established two types of leasehold arrangements with high protection of farmers' rights. The aim of the study is to explore the geographical perspective of land tenure in agricultural development. The Swedish practices may shed new lights on land reform policy-making. 

The results of this project has been presented in a session that Qian Zhang and Anders Wästfelt convened, Interpreting agrarian change in the era of globalization: Making sense of farm-level transitions and the role of locality, in the Nordic Geographical Meeting 2017.

The presentation title is:

What farms survive in the Swedish countryside? The impact of land tenure spatiality

A new article has just been published:

Wästfelt, A., & Zhang, Q. (2018). Keeping agriculture alive next to the city – The functions of the land tenure regime nearby Gothenburg, Sweden. Land Use Policy 78, 447-459, doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2018.06.053. (50 days' free access until September 6, 2018 via


Peri-urban agricultural transformations in Gothenburg, Sweden

Wästfelt, A., & Zhang, Q. (2016). Reclaiming localisation in agricultural change: a case study of peri-urban agriculture in Gothenburg, Sweden. Journal of Rural Studies, doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2016.07.013.

The work behind this article has been funded by the RETHINK project (Rethinking the links between farm modernisation, rural development and resilience in a world of increasing demands and finite resources).


Pastoralists and the environmental state: A study of ecological resettlement in Inner Mongolia, China

This is my doctoral dissertation which received one of four awards for "distinguished scientific works 2014–2015" from the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities.

The dissertation can be downloaded here.

Abstract: China's quest for sustainable development has given birth to a set of contested ‘ecological construction’ programmes. Focusing on ‘ecological resettlement’, a type of policy measure in a programme for restoring degraded grasslands, this thesis sets out a critical analysis in opposition to the dominant technical and managerial approaches to understanding environmentalisation. The aim is to draw out the politics of the formulation, implementation and effects of ecological resettlement at and across different scales. The study combines fieldwork, interviews, analysis of policy documents, and statistical analysis while theoretically, in addition to political ecology, it incorporates concepts and models from environmental governance, migration, and pastoralism studies. Environmentalisation is examined through three types of analysis: environmentalisation of the state, reshaping of state-society relations, and (re)territorialisation. A central theme is how local processes are linked to national considerations and how the local state acts as an intermediary between the central state and the pastoralists. The analysis exposes the practices that enabled the central state to define the problem of grasslands and devise interventions, illustrating the environmentalisation of the state. However, at the local level, incentives and interests defined by the political structure drove the developmental local state to pursue short-term-effective rather than sustainable practices. On the other hand, while the pastoral households responded to the projects with different strategies, their migration decisions suggested that social, economic and cultural considerations played a more important role than environmental concerns. Moreover, ecological resettlement has led to a significant change of Mongolian pastoralism. Land-tenure-based management further fragmented rangelands while the emergence of new social arrangements enabled migrant households to remain involved with pastoralism.


Chinese migrant workers in Sweden

Funded by the International Organization for Migration, this project explored recent trends in Chinese labour migration to Sweden. In particular it examined the working conditions of Chinese chefs in Chinese-owned restaurants against the backdrop of Sweden’s new labour immigration policy and labour and employment law.

The project report can be downloaded here.



Zhang, Q. (2018). Managing sandstorms through resettling pastoralists in China: How multiple forms of power governing the environment at/across scales. Journal of Political Ecology, 25 (1): 364-380, doi: 10.2458/v25i1.23045.

Wästfelt, A. & Zhang, Q. (2018). Keeping agriculture alive next to the city – The functions of the land tenure regime nearby Gothenburg, Sweden. Land Use Policy, 78: 447-459, doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2018.06.053.

Zhang, Q. & Wang, X. (2018). Internal and international migration dynamics in China, in Triandafyllidou, A. (ed) Handbook of Migration and Globalisation. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 297-317.

Axelsson, L., Malmberg, B., & Zhang, Q. (2017). On waiting, work-time and imagined futures: Theorising temporal precariousness among Chinese chefs in Sweden’s restaurant industry. Geoforum, 78: 169-178, doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.12.007.

Wästfelt, A. & Zhang, Q. (2016). Reclaiming localisation for revitalising agriculture: A case study of peri-urban agricultural change in Gothenburg, Sweden. Journal of Rural Studies, 47 (Part A): 172-185, doi: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2016.07.013.

Wei, X., Ye, Y., Zhang, Q., & Fang, X. (2016). Reconstruction of cropland change over the past 300 years in the Jing-Jin-Ji area, China.  Regional Environmental Change, 16 (7): 2097-2109. doi: 10.1007/s10113-016-0933-3.

Wei, X., Ye, Y., Zhang, Q., & Fang, X. (2015). Methods for cropland reconstruction based on gazetteers in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911): A case study in Zhili province, China. Applied Geography 65: 82-92, doi: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2015.11.002.

Zhang, Q. (2015). Pastoralists and the Environmental State: A study of ecological resettlement in Inner Mongolia, China. Stockholm Studies in Human Geography 25. Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis. Download

Axelsson L., Hedberg, C., Malmberg, B., and Zhang, Q. (2013). Chinese Restaurant Workers in Sweden: Policies, Patterns and Social Consequences. Beijing, International Organization for Migration, 52p. Download

Zhang, Q. (2013). Post-pastoralism? Pastoralists living with ecological resettlement, in Hao, S., Kolås, Å. and Zhaluo eds. Pastoralism in China: Policy and Local Practice, Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 299-332. (In Chinese).

Zhang, Q. (2012). The dilemma of conserving rangeland by means of development: Exploring ecological resettlement in a pastoral township of Inner Mongolia, Nomadic Peoples 16 (1): 88-115, doi: 10.3167/np.2012.160108.

Zhang, Q. (2010). Mongolie Intérieure. Désertification, Migration et Transformations des Modes de Vie, Hommes & migrations, a special issue on Migrations et environnement, Francois Gemenne ed., mars-avril, 1284: 42-55. (In French).

Zhang, Q. (2010). China (Inner Mongolia): Case study report for EACH-FOR project, in Jäger, Jill et. al. (eds.) Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios: Synthesis, Argitalpen Zerbitzua Servicio Editorial: 36-37.  

Zhang, Q. (2009). Environmental change and forced migration scenarios: Case study report on China (Inner Mongolia), “Environmental Change for Forced Migration Scenarios” (EACH-FOR) project (2007-2009).

Zhang, Q. (2006). “May They Live with Herds” – Transformation of Mongolian Pastoralism in Inner Mongolia of China, Master Thesis, University of Tromsø, Norway. Download

Last updated: October 28, 2018

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