Dr Yujie Zhu

MA, PhD (Anthropology), Heidelberg University, AFHEA
Lecturer, ANU Research School of Humanities & the Arts
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: (02)61252910

Research interests

  • Politics of the Past
  • Material Culture
  • Ethnicity
  • Heritage and Religion
  • Politics of Remembering and Forgetting 
  • Home and Mobility (lifestyle migration, diaspora, and tourism)

Teaching Interests:

HUMN8033 Tourism, Heritage, and Globalisation

HUMN8019 World Heritage: Conserving Cultural Heritage Values

HUMN8027 Critical Issues in Heritage and Museum Studies

HUMN8037 Culture and Heritage in China Field School


I am a Lecturer at the ANU Research School of Humanities and the Arts, CASS, Australian National University. For the past 15 years, I have been researching issues of the politics of cultural heritage, commemoration, cultural tourism and religious practices. My publications appear in leading anthropology, tourism, and heritage journals, including American Anthropologist, Annals of Tourism Research, and International Journal of heritage studies. The work has been featured in various national and international media outlets including Financial Times, ABC, and Shanghai Daily. 

My book Heritage and Romantic Consumption in China (Amsterdam University Press) examines how heritage interacts with social-cultural changes in China and how individuals perform and negotiate their identities through daily practices that include tourism, on the one hand, and the performance of ethnicity on the other. This book also explores the rise of ‘romantic consumerism’ in contemporary China. Chinese dissatisfaction with the urban mundane leads to romanticized interests in practices and people deemed to be natural, ethnic, spiritual and aesthetic, and a search for tradition and authenticity. 

My recent co-edited book Politics of Scale: New Directions of Critical Heritage Studies (Berghahn Books) discusses cultural heritage as a domain of politics, and explores how imagined or real spaces, territories and borders are constructed, defined and managed in diverse processes of heritage making. 

I am currently completing a book Heritage Politics in China: The Power of the Past (Routledge). This book studies the impact of heritage policies and discourses on the Chinese state and Chinese society. It sheds light on the way Chinese heritage policies have transformed the narratives and cultural practices of the past to serve the interests of the present. By framing heritage as a site of cooperation, contestation, and negotiation, this book contributes to our understanding of the complex nature of heritage in the rapidly shifting landscape of contemporary China.

Before joining the Center for Heritage and Museum Studies, I received my Ph.D. in anthropology from Heidelberg University, Germany and was a Research Fellow at the Australian Center on China in the World, ANU. I also worked as a heritage and tourism consultant in China, Spain and India. 

Researcher's projects

Religion and Heritage in East Asia

While religious heritage occupied one fifth world heritage sites in East Asia, yet very little research examines the interrelationship between the two.This project analyses the socio-cultural and political consequences of heritagisation of religious sites and practices. What is actually being revived and what is being invented? How does this development affect religious spaces and the perception of religion in the public realm? Does heritage serve as a new tool for the state to control and regulate religious spaces? Or does heritage offer a fertile ground for religious revival? Does the heritage industry engender secularization and a loss of religious efficacy? Or do such commercial practices lead to innovation in religious-spiritual life?

Sites of Memory and Nation Building

Since the early 20th century, heritage, museums and memorials have played active roles in constructing and reinterpreting the social memories of nation-states and sub-groups within the national population (Lowenthal 2015). Powerful state narratives are not monolithic and unchanging; rather they become lieux de mémoire (sites of memory) that adapt continuously to changing economic and political demands (Nora 1989; Winter 1995). Among the key questions that emerge from these shifting adaptations are: what kinds of narratives of the past are selected and interpreted for public display? How and why does the state turn historic events into ‘sites of memory’ for commemoration? A close investigation of these questions will help us understand the way in which mechanisms for the commemoration of the past – heritage, museums, memorials – become the foundation of modern nation-building.

Future of the Past: Heritage and Urbanization

The recent urban development in Xi'an illustrates how local authorities are rebuilding an imagined and ancient capital of China which is tied to the remote Tang dynasty, a symbol of the glorious Chinese civilization. Based on instrumental uses of the past, Xi'an has implemented heritage plans to create an aesthetically pleasing and economically valuable destination for display and consumption. This study contributes to an understanding of the contested nature of heritage in the rapidly shifting urban landscape of contemporary China.

Current student projects

I am currently supervising PhD students working on the following topics:

  • The Silk Roads or Economic Belt: An Analysis of the Interaction Between China’s World Heritage and its Economic and Political Ambitions
  • Imagine Dragons, the Transformation of Australian Imaginary of China 2010 – 2016
  • Pursuing good life in this world: the aspiration of Daoist clerics in Longhu Shan, China
  • Constructing a Divine Domesticity: Woman’s Messenger (1912-1951) and Her Republican Dreamers
  • Mining development and social impact on Taiwan indigenous peoples
  • The conversation of cultural landscape in Chengdu Plain under new countryside construction
  • HUL Approach for Sustainable Managment of Chinese HIstoric Urban Centres with Colonial Backgrounds


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Updated:  18 September 2019 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers