skip to content

Department of Social Anthropology



I am a social anthropologist and Tunku Abdul Rahman University Associate Professor in Malay World Studies. I obtained my PhD from Cambridge in 2007, and taught at Brunel University London for ten years before taking up this new position in 2021. I have long-term research interests in Malaysian Borneo, where I have explored conversion to Christianity, ethnic politics and experiences of development and resettlement among Bidayuh communities. My current research centres on the more-than-human politics, socialities and aesthetics of orangutan conservation in the ‘age of the Anthropocene’. As part of this work, I enjoy working across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries through collaborations with conservationists and public engagement.


I have worked in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, since 2003. My PhD and early postdoctoral research centred on conversion to Christianity and ethnic and cultural politics among rural Bidayuh communities, while a second postdoctoral project entailed the study of landscape, morality and development in the context of a dam-construction and resettlement project in which four Bidayuh villages were entangled. My fieldwork in Sarawak drew me to my current research on the social, political, aesthetic and affective dimensions of the global nexus of orangutan conservation in the so-called 'age of the Anthropocene'. I explore these issues with a small team of doctoral students and postdocs via two projects:

1) POKOK: an anthropology-conservation collaboration (2017-2022) that investigates the causes and contexts of orangutan killing and human/orangutan conflict in rural Borneo and seeks to devise conservation strategies for mitigating this problem and engaging more constructively and ethically with local communities.

3) Refiguring Conservation in/for 'the Anthropocene': the Global Lives of the Orangutan (GLO). A multi-sited ethnography of the global nexus of orangutan conservation in the context of emerging 'Anthropocenic' ontologies, politics, socialities and discourses. This European Research Council-funded project (2018-2023) has two key aims: to explore if and how global conservation is 'scaling up' to meet the challenges of 'the Anthropocene'; and to cut the Anthropocene concept down to size by examining how it is apprehended, fragmented and reworked in multiple ethnographic settings.

These ethnographic foci have evolved in tandem with my other long-running research interests in theories of visuality and materiality, more-than-human socialities, indigenous museology, and the histories and politics of anthropological knowledge practices.

Engagement beyond anthropology and the academy is an important part of my research programme. Currently, I work with conservationists and conservation scientists through my research projects and involvement with Oryx: International Journal of Conservation, Conservation and Society, and the Section for Human-Primate Interactions (IUCN Primate Specialist Group). I am also committed to making anthropology more accessible and interesting to the general public. Please see my ‘other publications’ below.

Research interests

Religious conversion; Christianity; ethnic politics; indigeneity; development; resettlement; environmental transformations; biodiversity conservation; human-animal relations and multispecies ethnography; ‘the Anthropocene’; anthropology’s histories and knowledge practices; material and visual anthropology




  • Chua, L. and Mathur, N., 2018. Who are 'We'? Reimagining Alterity and Affinity in Anthropology
  • 2013

  • Chua, L. and Elliott, M., 2013. Distributed Objects Meaning and Mattering after Alfred Gell
  • 2012

  • Chua, L., 2012. Southeast Asian Perspectives on Power
  • Chua, L., 2012. The Christianity of Culture Conversion, Ethnic Citizenship, and the Matter of Religion in Malaysian Borneo
  • Journal articles


  • Chua, L., 2022. “If God Is with Us, Who Can Be against Us?” Current Anthropology, v. 63
    Doi: 10.1086/722300
  • Chua, L. and Idrus, R., 2022. Introduction: Unpacking indigeneity in Southeast Asia Sojourn: journal of social issues in Southeast Asia, v. 37
  • 2021 (Accepted for publication)

  • CHUA, L., FAIR, H., SCHREER, V., STĘPIEŃ, A. and THUNG, PH., 2021 (Accepted for publication). “Only the orangutans get a life jacket” American Ethnologist,
    Doi: 10.1111/amet.13045
  • 2021

  • Chua, L., 2021. Witnessing the Unseen The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, v. 39
    Doi: 10.3167/cja.2021.390108
  • Chua, L. and Grinberg, O., 2021. Introduction The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, v. 39
    Doi: 10.3167/cja.2021.390102
  • 2020

  • Chua, L., 2020. Viral Devotionality and Christian Solidarity in/beyond Borneo Oceania, v. 90
    Doi: 10.1002/ocea.5258
  • Chua, L., 2020. Durian diplomacies Terrain,
    Doi: 10.4000/terrain.20371
  • Harrison, ME., Wijedasa, LS., Cole, LES., Cheyne, SM., Choiruzzad, SAB., Chua, L., Dargie, GC., Ewango, CEN., Honorio Coronado, EN., Ifo, SA., Imron, MA., Kopansky, D., Lestarisa, T., O'Reilly, PJ., Van Offelen, J., Refisch, J., Roucoux, K., Sugardjito, J., Thornton, SA., Upton, C. and Page, S., 2020. Tropical peatlands and their conservation are important in the context of COVID-19 and potential future (zoonotic) disease pandemics. PeerJ, v. 8
    Doi: 10.7717/peerj.10283
  • Chua, L., Harrison, ME., Fair, H., Milne, S., Palmer, A., Rubis, J., Thung, P., Wich, S., Büscher, B., Cheyne, SM., Puri, RK., Schreer, V., Stępień, A. and Meijaard, E., 2020. Conservation and the social sciences: Beyond critique and co‐optation. A case study from orangutan conservation People and Nature, v. 2
    Doi: 10.1002/pan3.10072
  • 2018 (Accepted for publication)

  • Chua, L. and Fair, H., 2018 (Accepted for publication). Anthropocene Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology,
    Doi: 10.29164/19anthro
  • 2018

  • CHUA, L., 2018. Small acts and personal politics: On helping to save the orangutan via social media Anthropology Today, v. 34
    Doi: 10.1111/1467-8322.12432
  • Chua, L., 2018. Too Cute to Cuddle? "Witnessing Publics" and Interspecies Relations on the Social Media-scape of Orangutan Conservation Anthropological Quarterly, v. 91
    Doi: 10.1353/anq.2018.0043
  • 2016

  • Chua, L., 2016. Gifting, Dam(n)ing and the Ambiguation of Development in Malaysian Borneo Ethnos, v. 81
    Doi: 10.1080/00141844.2014.986152
  • 2015

  • Chua, L., 2015. Horizontal and vertical relations HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, v. 5
    Doi: 10.14318/hau5.1.016
  • Chua, L., 2015. Troubled landscapes, troubling anthropology: co‐presence, necessity, and the making of ethnographic knowledge Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, v. 21
    Doi: 10.1111/1467-9655.12254
  • 2012

  • Chua, L., 2012. Conversion, continuity, and moral dilemmas among Christian Bidayuhs in Malaysian Borneo American Ethnologist, v. 39
    Doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1425.2012.01378.x
  • 2011

  • Chua, L., 2011. Soul Encounters: Emotions, Corporeality, and the Matter of Belief in a Bornean Village Social Analysis, v. 55
    Doi: 10.3167/sa.2011.550301
  • 2009

  • Chua, L., 2009. What's in a (Big) Name? The Art and Agency of a Bornean Photographic Collection ANTHROPOLOGICAL FORUM, v. 19
    Doi: 10.1080/00664670802695608
  • Chua, L., 2009. To know or not to know? Practices of knowledge and ignorance among Bidayuhs in an 'impurely' Christian world JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE, v. 15
    Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9655.2009.01556.x
  • 2007

  • Chua, L., 2007. Fixity and flux: Bidayuh (dis)engagements with the Malaysian ethnic system ETHNOS, v. 72
    Doi: 10.1080/00141840701387937
  • Internet publications

    2022 (No publication date)

  • Chua, L., 2022 (No publication date). Living in Harmony? It's Messy
  • 2021

  • Chua, L., 2021. (E)valuations of more-than-human care
  • 2020

  • Chua, L. and Thung, PH., 2020. Why COVID-era campaigns against wildmeat consumption aren't working
  • Other publications


  • Chua, L., Schreer, V. and Thung, PH., 2022. Using Ethnographic Research for Social Engagement: A Toolkit for Orangutan (and Other) Conservationists
    Doi: 10.17863/CAM.86774
  • 2019

  • Chua, L. and Fair, H., 2019. Anthropocene
  • Teaching and Supervisions


    Undergrdauate Teaching

    Paper SAN2: The foundations of social life: Anthropology and Religion 


    Postgraduate Teaching

    MPhil in Social Anthropology  - Paper MP2: Systems of Power and Knowledge

    MPhil Social Anthropological Research - Core seminars


    Postgraduate Supervision

    Anna Stępień (Brunel University)
    Paul Hasan Thung (Brunel University)

    Tunku Abdul Rahman University Associate Professor in Malay World Studies
    Fellow and Director of the Tunku Fund, St Catharine’s College
    Tutor, MPhil in Social Anthropological Research
    Co-editor Cambridge Journal of Anthropology
    Office hours, by appointment

    Contact Details

    Email address: