Dr Andrea Pia

Dr Andrea Pia

LSE fellow - China

Department of Anthropology

+44 (0)20 7955 7614
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About me

Andrea Pia specialises in the ethnographic study of human relationships to and projects for the natural environment, with particular reference to contemporary China. Educated in Italy, China and Britain, Andrea conducted long-term fieldwork in the Jingxi area of Beijing City and more recently in North-East Yunnan Province. His PhD work investigates the entanglements of political, legal, technical and ethical issues with the appropriation, distribution and circulation of common water sources across social groups in contemporary water-stressed China. This research shows how in rural Yunnan, the implementation of a transnationally advocated market-based reform into the country’s water sector is falling short of its promises of environmental sustainability. Rather, this reform appears to discharge the effects of market-engineered water shortage on the poor while at the same time chronologically formatting present-day processes of water dispossession as “survivals” of an older yet now technically disposable Chinese condition of life. The PhD thus follow ethnographically the various calculative, ethical and cooperative efforts of local water users and water allocators to engage in and secure water access against many social and environmental odds. 

Andrea is currently working on two different projects. The first one is the development and introduction of The Long Day of Young Peng in the teaching of China in Comparative Perspective, a module offered by the Anthropology Department at the LSE. Based on ethnographic research Andrea carried out in the outskirt of Beijing between 2007 and 2009, and drawing on extensive readings of the social scientific literature on migration and development, Peng is a bespoke point-and-click video game that follows the day of a fictional character from his native village to Beijing. Based on a multiple-choice mechanics, the game is conceived as an immersive teaching tool that allows students to explore key themes in the study of contemporary China through the eyes of one of its main protagonist, a young migrant worker. 

The second project is a new piece of research that centres on China-led, water-related infrastructural investments and construction in South-East Asia under the New Silk Road and Asian Infrastructural Investment Bank framework. By focusing on the everyday labour regime and development planning of one big Chinese water development firm operating on the Salween trans-boundary river basin – and on their consequences for its multi-ethnic and multi-spices ecosystem – this proposed research hopes to attend to the cooperative, competitive and speculative dynamics compounding the Chinese pragmatic and future-shaping attempts to provide a new economic architecture and ecological infrastructure to the region. 

Andrea remains deeply interested in public anthropology. He is one of the co-editors of Chinoiresie.info, an online platform hosted by the Australian National University (ANU) and supported by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant and has recently curated a thematic week on the Legal Anthropology blog ALLEGRA.

Since 2013, Andrea has taught courses in Legal Anthropology, Anthropology and Human Rights, Culture and Globalisation and China in Comparative Perspective.


China; rural sociology; water; common-pool resources; political economy; environmental justice; prefigurative politics; infrastructure

Selected publications

Forthcoming, Back on the water margin: the ethical fixes of sustainable water provisions in rural ChinaThe Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Forthcoming. “We Follow Reason not the Law”. Disavowing the Law in Rural ChinaPoLar: Political and Legal Anthropology Review.

2015. Disavowing the Law and Engaging Politics in Rural ChinaAnthropology News.

2014. Storia dell’Antropologia Cinese [The History if Chinese Anthropology, translation of Hu Hongbao et al. Zhongguo Renlexuei Shi]. SEID: Firenze.

2013. “L'acqua è la Linfa Vitale del Popolo”: associazionismo “dal basso” e gestione delle risorse idriche nella Cina rurale ["Water is the Life Line of the People": community building and the management of China rural water supply], in Ferro, N. (ed.), Sviluppo Sostenibile e Cina: le sfide sociali e ambientali del XXI secolo [Sustainable Development in China: the social and environmental challenges of the XXI century]. Edizioni l’Asino d’Oro: Roma.

2011. On a Ridge Between Fields: unpacking property in land in Qing ChinaLa Ricerca Folklorica.