Zhou Xun University of Essex

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Zhou Xun University of Essex

Zhou Xun University of Essex

Academic Staff

Dr Xun Zhou

Staff position Reader
Email xzhoug@essex.ac.uk
Telephone 01206 872232
Room 5NW.8.6
Biography Born in Sichuan province, China, Dr. Xun Zhou received her PhD from the University of London in 1998. In the past 20 years, she has lived in London, Jerusalem, Beijing and Hong Kong. Between January 2001 and December 2007 she was a Research Fellow at the History Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. From December 2007 to December 2012 she was Research Assistant Professor at the School of Humanities, University of Hong Kong.

Dr. Zhou is one of Europe’s most productive historians, media researchers and analysts specialising in modern China. She is among an increasing number of historians who are pioneering the history of the People’s Republic of China through the use of new oral and archival evidence. Based on over thousands of archival documents and hundreds of interviews she has collected, The Great Famine in China, 1958-1962: a Documentary History (2012) and Forgotten Voices: Mao’s Great Famine, 1958-1961an oral history (2014) are powerful accounts which have helped to reshape our understanding of  modern Chinese history.

Dr Zhou has also a long track record in media activities. Some of her interviews with famine survivors have appeared in the award winning French Documentary film Mao’s Great Famine (2012).

Qualifications BA Sichuan; MA London; PhD London; FHEA
Current research Dr. Zhou is currently writing a book ‘Health for the Nation: Health Intervention and Delivery in the PRC under Mao, 1949-1983’. This book is part of a larger project on Public Health Campaigns and Local Healing Practices in the PRC. This project is funded by the European Commission Research Executive Agency. Using a wide range of newly available archival materials from eight different provinces AND of equal importance extensive oral interviews with the participants at both the expert and grassroots level, this project sets out to develop a better and more nuanced understanding of the Chinese approach to health. It explores the processes through which the Maoist health system was conceived and the political context in which they were, and could be, evaluated. This project contributes to the current global health policy debates concerning the importance of political commitment to health, sustained investment, access to health, the pursuit of community engagement, and action on the wider determinants of health.
Research interests In the past years her research has ranged across topics such as
  • ‘History of Chinese Perceptions of Jews’,
  • ‘Social History of Opiates in China’,
  • ‘Material Culture and Everyday life Modern China (1870-1950)’,
  • ‘Social History of Photography in Modern China’,
  • ‘Health and Modernity in 20th Century China: a visual history’, and
  • ‘Food and Foodways in China’.

In addition to modern Chinese history Dr. Zhou has an outstanding track record in trans-cultural/global history. She has worked on wide range of topics from

  • ‘Narcotic Culture’, ‘Global History of Smoking’ and‘Global History of Karaoke’
  • ‘Global Health’, ‘Disease, Healing and Religion’
  • ‘Race and Ethnicity in Asia and Europe’ and ‘Cultural Nationalism’.

She is one of an increasing number of historians who are pioneering the history of the People’s Republic of China through the use of new oral and archival evidence.  From 2007 to 2012, she worked on a project of key importance to the history of the twentieth century, namely the Great Famine in China under Mao. Her book The Great Famine in China, 1957-1962: A Documentary History (2012), published by Yale University Press, is the labour of her research in those five years. It contains over hundred documents from the Chinese archives. These documents, all being translated into English, will give readers and students a better view of how and why the catastrophe unfolded, as well as the enormity and sheer horror of what took place. Based on over hundred interviews she has collected across China, Forgotten Voices of Mao’s Great Famine ,1958-1961: an Oral History (2014), also published by Yale University Press, is a remarable oral history of modern China’s greatest tragedy, survivors of the cataclysm share their memories of the devastation and loss.

Teaching responsibilities HR645: From Liberation to the Tiananmen Massacre: China from Mao to Deng Xiaoping, 1949-1992

HR226: China: The Long Twentieth Century

HR100: The Making of the Modern World, 1776-1989

HR105: Themes in Global History

HR 948:Narcotic Culture: A History of Drugs from the 16th to 20th century

HR218: Imagining China: Wester Perceptions of China from the 13th century to the Post War Era

Publications Authored and Co-authored Books:

2. Forgotten Voices of Mao’s Great Famine, 1958-1962: An Oral History, Y (2014), New Haven & London: Yale University Press

3. The Great Famine in China: A Documentary History, 1958-1962 (2012), New Haven & London: Yale University Press

4. Karaoke: the Global Phenomenon (2007), co-authored with Francesca Tarocco, London: Reaktion Books; Chicago: University of Chicago Press

5. Narcotic Culture: A Social History of Drug Consumption in modern China(2004), co-authored with Frank Dikötter and Lars Laamann, London: Hurst & Co.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press

6. Wisdom of Confucians (2001), co-authored with T H Barrett, Oxford: OneWorld Books

7. History of Youtai: Chinese Perceptions of Jews and Judaism (2001), London: Routledge-Curzon

Edited Books

1. Smoke: A Global History of Smoking (2004), co-edited with Sander L Gilman, London: Reaktion Books

2. Disease, Religion and Healing in Asia: Collaborations and Collisions (2014), co-edited with Ivette M. Vargas-O’Bryan


1. ‘Re-examining the History of the Great Famine in China through Documentary Evidence’, EAST/WEST: JOURNAL OF UKRAINIAN STUDIES, VOL 3, NO 2 (2016), pp. 133-152 ( DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21226/T2PC70)

2. ‘Introduction’ to Special Topic: ‘Re-thinking Health and Health Care Delivery: historical perspectives and global challenges’, Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences, vol.9 no.1, March 2016: i-iii (DOI: 10.1007/s40647-015-0109-4, first published online in October 2015)

3. ‘Reconsidering the Barefoot Doctor Programme’, Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences, vol.9 no.1, March 2016: 1-23 (DOI 10.1007/s40647-015-0107-6, first published online in October 2015)

4. ‘But We Never Talked about it’, co-authored with Sander Gilman, in History Workshop Online, Special Feacture: Timeliness and (Holocaust) Memory , Oct. 6, 2014, http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/timeliness-and-holocaust-memory/

5, ‘“Kitchen Knowledge”, Desperate Foods and Ritual Healing in Everyday Survival Strategies during the Great Famine in China’ (2014), in Asian Medicine, Volume 7 Issue 2: 384-404

3. ‘Evidence of Mao’s Hidden Famine, Inside China’s State Archive’ (2012), in History Workshop Online, November29, http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/maos-hidden-famine-inside-chinas-state-archives/

6. ‘Fitness and Modernity in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century China’ (2012), in Perfect Bodies: Sport, Medicine and Immortality edited by Vivienne Lo, London: The British Museum, pp. 143-56.

7. ‘Mikvah in Beijing’ (2011), in The European Review of History – Revue Européenne d’Histoire, Vol. 18 (1): 123-130.

8. ‘Ethnicity and Race’ (2009), in The Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History, ed. by Akira Iriye and Pierre-Yves Saunier, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 347 – 351.

9. ‘Thomson’s China Photographs and the Wellcome Library’ (2009), in Through the Lens of John Thomson: 1868-1872 (exhibition catalogue), ed. by Beijing World Art Museum, Beijing: China Photographic Publishing House, pp. 16-17.

10. ‘The “Jews” in the May Fourth Period’ (2008), in Youtai-Presence and Perception of Jews and Judaism in China, 2008, ed. by Peter Kupfer, Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp. 201-216.

11. ‘Eat, Drink and Sing, and be Modern and Global: Food, Karaoke and “Middle Class” Consumers in China’ (2008), Patterns of Middle-class Consumption in India and China, ed. by Christophe Jaffrelot and Peter van der Veer, LA/London/New Delhi/Singapore: Sage Publication, pp.1 10-126.

12. ‘健与美:当代中国的医学和健康 ’ (Beauty and Health: Medical Imagery in 20th Century China) (2007), in 形象中医—中医历史图像研究 (Imagining Chinese Medicine),ed. by 罗为前&王淑明, 人民衛生出版社 (北京), pp. 270-274.

13. ‘China, British Imperialism, and the Myth of the “Opium Plague”’ (2007) co-authored with Frank Dikötter and Lars Laamann, Drugs and empires, ed. by James H. Mills and Patricia Barton, Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 19-38.

14. ‘Consuming Leisure: “middle class” and consumerism in contemporary China’ (2005), China Studies, no. 2: 19-29.

15. ‘The Kaifeng Jew Hoax: Constructing the “Chinese Jews”’ (2004), In Orientalism and Jews, ed., by Ivan Davidson Kalmar & Derek Penslar, MA: Brandeis University Press & University Press of New England, pp. 68-80

16. ‘Counting Down to Chaos in Beijing: SARS in China’ (May 15, 2003), in Far Eastern Economic Review, p. 49.

17. ‘A History of Narcotic Consumption in Modern China’ (2002), Twentieth century China, Nov. :  21-36.

18. ‘Narcotic Culture: A Social History of Drug Consumption in China’ (2002), co-authored with Frank Dikötter & Lars Laamann, in The British Journal of Criminology, vol. 42, no. 2, Spring: 317-36.

19. ‘Discourse of Disability in Modern China’, Patterns of Prejudice (2002), vol. 36, no. 1: 104-12.

20. ‘Youtai: A History of the “Jews” in Modern China’ (2000), in Jews in China: from Kaifeng to Shanghai, ed. by Roman Malek, Monumenta Serica Monography Series XLVI, Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica, pp. 617-634.

21. ‘The Image of the “Jews” in the May Fourth Period’, (2000) Jewish Culture and History, pp. 18-41.

22. ‘Jews in Chinese Culture: Representation and Reality’ (1999), in Jewries at Frontier, ed. by Sander L Gilman and Milton Shain, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, pp. 224-241.

23. ‘Youtai: The Myth of the Jew in Modern China’ (1997), in Construction of Racial Identities in China and Japan, ed. by Frank Dikötter, London: Hurst & Company, pp. 53-74.