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Dr Liana Chua

Dr Liana Chua

Marie Jahoda 140

Research area(s)

  • Anthropology of conversion, ritual and religion (especially Christianity)
  • Ethnic and indigenous politics
  • Materiality, visual anthropology
  • Development and resettlement
  • Environmental transformations
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Human-animal relations, multispecies ethnography
  • The Anthropocene

Research Interests

I have worked in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, since 2003. My PhD and early postdoctoral research centred on conversion to Christianity and ethnic and cultural politics among rural Bidayuh communities, while a second postdoctoral project entailed the study of landscape, morality and development in the context of a dam-construction and resettlement project in which four Bidayuh communities were entangled.

My fieldwork in Sarawak drew me to my current research interest: the social, political and affective dimensions of the global nexus of orangutan conservation in the so-called 'age of the Anthropocene'. I'm exploring these through three main projects:

1) Ongoing digital ethnography of popular perceptions of orangutan causes and conservation on social media.

2) POKOK. An anthropology-conservation collaboration (2017-2021), run with Erik Meijaard (Borneo Futures) and Paul Hasan Thung (Brunel), and funded by the Arcus Foundation and Brunel University. This project investigates the causes and contexts of orangutan killing in rural Borneo, with a view to using the resultant ethnographic findings to inform conservation strategies for mitigating this problem and engaging more productively with local communities. For more information, please visit our website.

3) Refiguring conservation in/for 'the Anthropocene': the global lives of the orangutan. A multi-sited ethnography of the global nexus of orangutan conservation in the context of emerging 'Anthropocenic' ontologies, politics, socialities and discourses. This European Research Council-funded project (2018-2023) has two key aims: to explore if and how global conservation is 'scaling up' to meet the challenges of 'the Anthropocene'; and to cut 'the Anthropocene' down to size by examining how it is apprehended, fragmented and reworked in multiple ethnographic settings. 

These ethnographic foci have evolved in tandem with my enduring research interests in theories of visuality and materiality, the body, more-than-human socialities, indigenous museology, and anthropological knowledge practices.

Research supervision

Anna Stępień, An ethnography of orangutan rescue in 'the Anthropocene' (2018-2022) - 1st supervisor

Paul Hasan Thung, Causes and contexts of orangutan killing in rural Borneo (2017-2021) - 1st supervisor

Thea Vidnes, Consuming expectations: an exploration of foodways in relation to health and maternity among Nepalis living in Norway (submitted December 2016) - 2nd supervisor

Research project(s) and grant(s)

European Research Council Starting Grant (2018-2023) - Principal Investigator

Refiguring conservation in/for 'the Anthropocene': the global lives of the orangutan

The Arcus Foundation and Brunel University London (2017-2021)

Causes and contexts of human-orangutan conflict and orangutan killing in rural Borneo

Athena SWAN grant (2016-2018), Brunel University London

Forms and notions of 'witnessing' in orangutan conservation

The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (2014) workshop grant

Who are ‘we’? Reimagining Alterity and Affinity project and workshop (co-organized with Nayanika Mathur)

Brunel Research Initiative and Enterprise (BRIEF) Award (2014-15)

So far and yet so near: presence, intimacy and distance in orangutan conservation online 

Evans Fund, University of Cambridge (2011-12)

The Social Life of the Orangutan: Environmentalism, Human-Animal Relations and Wildlife Conservation in Britain and Borneo - 

British Academy Small Research Grant (2008-10)

Down to the Road: Landscape, Morality and Politics in Bidayuh Experiences of Resettlement 

Crowther-Beynon Fund, Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology (Cambridge) and the Firebird Foundation (2008-9)

Borneo and the Torres Strait Expedition: People, Places and Photographs, 1898–1899 - exhibition, workshop and photographic repatriation project 

William Wyse Studentship (2003-6) and Gonville & Caius College (2007-11), University of Cambridge

PhD and postdoctoral research on conversion to Christianity and ethnic and cultural politics among Bidayuhs in Malaysian Borneo