Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Dr Maria Nolan

Key information

Department of Anthropology and Sociology Lecturer in Anthropology
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Support hours
Thursdays 3pm–5pm. Email for appointment.


Maria is a Lecturer in Anthropology and researcher with a regional focus on urban China, who completed her doctoral studies at SOAS in 2020. Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, where she received a BA in Psychology, Maria completed an MSc in Social Anthropology at UCL before moving to China where she lived and worked for a number of years, developing a familiarity with the rhythms of life in Beijing.  

Her doctoral thesis, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, explores the circumstances influencing the emergence in China of zhai, which loosely refers to a tendency towards staying at home. Her thesis traces the emergence of zhai as an identity label among youth in a rapidly changing society wherein sociality had begun to drift online. It provides important insights on the emergence of new modes of sociality among young Chinese, building on contemporary research on youth identity and sociality and the ways in which digital media are transforming everyday spaces.  

Since completing her doctoral studies, Maria has conducted research exploring the social and psychological impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on young people in both China and Ireland as part of an extensive data collection project set up by the UCL Centre for Digital Anthropology. More recently she has worked as a researcher of suicide prevention and community mental health for Network Rail in the UK. Maria is currently developing a project focusing on approaches to mental health and wellbeing among Chinese overseas students in the UK, as well as a monograph on the topic of zhai

Key publications

Nolan, M. 2021. Developing Indifference: Youth, Place-making and Belonging in a Transforming Urban China. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 11(3): 1029-1044.

Research interests

Contemporary China; urban sociality; psychological anthropology and mental health; anthropology of home; digital anthropology and social media.


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