Portrait of Dr Joy Zhang

Dr Joy Zhang

Reader in Sociology
Director of Studies, Sociology


Dr Joy Zhang is a Chinese-born British sociologist with a first degree in medicine. Her expertise is on the transnational governance of scientific uncertainty, with a focus on the Sino-European context. Conceptually, her work contributes to the sociological investigations on Cosmopolitanism and subaltern politics, for her research focuses on the breaking down of epistemic boundaries formed by disciplinary, geo-political and state-society power struggles. 

Before joining SSPSSR, Dr Zhang worked at l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), where she also obtained her PhD in Sociology in 2010 and MSc in 2006. Previous to that, she graduated from Peking University Health Science Centre, majoring in clinical medicine. Dr Zhang is a Visiting Fellow at the Global Biopolitics Research Centre, Kings College London, an Affiliated Researcher of le Collège d’Etudes Mondiales, Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme (FMSH), France. She is also a member of the Human Practices Committee of the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. 

Dr Zhang has always tried to have a flavour of different lives when she can. She once worked as a journalist and a columnist and she obtained an accounting certificate issued by China’s Ministry of Finance. Most importantly, she’s keen on exploring artistic tools in exploring bioethical and sociological questions. To date, she has had three solo photographic exhibitions (two of which were sponsored by Canon, China). She loves being a sociologist, but if you ask her what her ‘dream job’ would be, it’s being an art restorer. 

She has obtained individual research grants from the British Council, ESRC, the Wellcome Trust in the UK and la Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’homme in France. She has also been interviewed by two dozen media in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, China, Denmark and Sweden. Since October 2019, she has been collaborating with Kathleen Vogel and Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley on the project, Ethical Issues Surrounding Human Germline Genome Editing, funded by the National Science Foundation in the US. 

Research interests

We are living in a global risk society, which has complicated the legitimising devices for scientific policies and has rendered social space for subaltern actors to develop new modes of intervention. Dr Zhang has established her expertise in the transnational governance of emerging science in the nexus of these themes. 

Dr Zhang emphasises aligning theoretical frameworks with real-world challenges. Her work has fed into the policy-making of the Royal Society in the UK, China’s Ministry of Health, and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. 

Dr Zhang's research interests are focused on

  • Decolonisation of knowledge
  • Epistemic (in)justice
  • Cosmopolitanism and Cosmopolitanisation
  • Social movement and state-society relations
  • Art-Science interface
  • Transnational governance of scientific uncertainties.


Dr Zhang has designed and convenes the undergraduate module SO627 Sociology of the Global South, and the postgraduate module SO938 Technology, Society and Policy. In the past, she has convened or co-taught on a number of core modules on sociology degrees.


Dr Zhang welcomes students with interests in the social study of risk, emerging technologies, health, bioethics, science policy, governance, environmental politics or state-society relations.



  • Society for Social Studies of Science
  • International Sociological Association American Sociological Association
  • American Association of the Advancement of Science
  • UNESCO Inclusive Policy Lab
  • Life membership, China Women Photographers’ Association (since 2003)


  • Editorial Board, Sociology 
  • Editorial Board, Environmental Politics
  • Visiting Fellow, Global Biopolitics Research Centre, Kings College London
  • External Examiner, Sociology, University of Sheffield 
  • Human Practices Committee, International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition.
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