Dr Liana Chua

Brunel University

Position: Senior Lecturer in Anthropology

Faculty: Department of Social and Political Sciences


Email: liana.chua@brunel.ac.uk

Research Interests:

Dr Chua’s research is focused mainly on the geographical area of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo. Her work initially focused on conversion to Christianity, ethnic politics and experiences of development among rural Bidayuh communities, however she later built on these interests to explore the cultures, politics and social relations surrounding another Bornean denizen: the critically endangered orangutan. Her current research explores how orangutan conservation functions as a global nexus that bridges science, popular culture and ‘ordinary’ lives in Borneo, Sumatra and the Global North. From this work came the project that won Dr Chua the highly prestigious European Research Council Starting Grant in September 2017: ‘GLO-Refiguring Conservation in/for 'the Anthropocene': The Global Lives of the Orangutan.’ 



Dr Chua studied for her BA in Modern History at the University of Oxford before moving towards anthropology and completing her doctorate at Cambridge in 2007. Following a research fellowship at Cambridge she began her work at Brunel University in 2011.

Awards and Achievements:

Awarded the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Curl Lectureship in 2013.

Awarded grants by the British Academy in 2008 and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research in 2014. 

European Research Council Starting Grant - September 2017.


Journal articles:

Chua, L.   (Accepted)   'Too cute to cuddle? "Witnessing publics" and inter-species relations on the social media-scape of orangutan conservation'. Anthropological Quarterly.


Chua, L.   (2016)   'Gifting, Dam(n)ing and the Ambiguation of Development in Malaysian Borneo'. Ethnos 81 (4): 735-57. doi: 10.1080/00141844.2014.986152


Chua, L.   (2015)   'Horizontal and vertical relations: Interrogating "in/dividualism" among Christian Bidayuhs'. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 5 (1).  pp. 339 - 339. 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, 21 (3).  pp. 641 - 659. doi: 10.1111/1467-9655.12254


Chua, L.   (2012)   'Conversion, continuity, and moral dilemmas among Christian Bidayuhs in Malaysian Borneo'. American Ethnologist, 39 (3).  pp. 511 - 526. doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1425.2012.01378.


Chua, L.   (2011)   'Soul encounters: Emotions, corporeality, and the matter of belief in a bornean village'. Social Analysis, 55 (3).  pp. 1 - 17. doi: 10.3167/sa.2011.550301


Chua, L.   (2009)   'What's in a (Big) Name? The Art and Agency of a Bornean Photographic Collection'. Anthropological Forum, 19 (1).  pp. 33 - 52. doi: 10.1080/00664670802695608


Chua, L.   (2009)   'A Cambridge anthropologist in Borneo: The A.C. Haddon photographic collection, 1898-1899'. Borneo Research Bulletin, 40 pp. 129 - 146.


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, 15 (2).  pp. 332 - 348. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9655.2009.01556.x


Chua, L.   (2007)   'Fixity and flux: Bidayuh (dis)engagements with the Malaysian ethnic system'. Ethnos, 72 (2).  pp. 262 - 288. doi: 10.1080/00141840701387937


Chua, L.   (2006)   'Looking for the Tambok: Some ethnographic notes on contemporary Bidayuh basketry'. Sarawak Museum Journal, 62 (83).  pp. 1 - 32.



Chua, L. and Mathur, N., eds. Forthcoming. Who are ‘we’? Reimagining alterity and affinity in anthropology. New York and Oxford: Berghahn.


Chua, L.  and Elliott, M.   (2013) Distributed Objects: Meaning and Mattering After Alfred Gell. Oxford:  Berghahn Books


Chua, L. , Cook, J. , Long, N.  and Wilson, L.   (2012) Southeast Asian Perspectives on Power.  Routledge


Chua, L.   (2012) The Christianity of Culture: Conversion, Ethnic Citizenship, and the Matter of Religion in Malaysian Borneo.  Palgrave MacMillan


Chua, L. , High, C.  and Lau, T.   (2008) How Do We Know? Evidence, Ethnography, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge.  Cambridge Scholars Publishing


Book chapters:

Chua, L.  (2017)   'Animal internet stardom', in Parrenas, R. (ed.) Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbook of Gender and Animals.  Macmillan Reference USA


Chua, L.  (2015)   'Anthropological perspectives on ritual and religious ignorance', in Gross, M.  and McGoey, L. (eds.) Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies.  London and New York Routledge pp. 247 - 255.


Chua, L.  (2014)   'Everyday religiosity and the ambiguation of development in East Malaysia: Reflections on a dam-construction and resettlement project', in Platzdasch, B.  and Saravanamuttu, J. (eds.) In Religious Minorities in Muslim-Majorities Localities in Southeast Asia: Areas of Toleration and Conflict.  Singapore Institute of Southeast Asian Studies pp. 400 - 417.


Chua, L.  and Elliott, M.  (2013)   'Introduction: Adventures in the Art Nexus', in Chua, L.  and Elliott, M. (eds.) Distributed Objects: Meaning and Mattering After Alfred Gell.  Oxford Berghahn Books


Chua, L.  (2012)   'The problem with 'empty crosses': Thinking through materiality in Bidayuh religious practices', in The Spirit of Things: Materiality and Religious Diversity in Southeast Asia.  Ithaca, New York Cornell University Press pp. 111 - 128.


Chua, L. , Cook, J. , Long, N.  and Wilson, L.  (2012)   'Introduction', in Chua, L. , Cook, J. , Long, N.  and Wilson, L. (eds.) Southeast Asian Perspectives on Power.  Routledge pp. .


Chua, L.  and Salmond, A.  (2012)   'Artefacts in Anthropology', in Fardon, R.  and Gledhill, J. (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Social Anthropology.  Sage Publications Ltd pp. .


Chua, L.  (2010)   'Eating one’s way through fieldwork: Reflections on food and (Malaysian) sociality', in Lee, JCH. (ed.) The Malaysian way of life.  pp. 73 - 77.


Chua, L. , High, C.  and Lau, T.  (2008)   'Introduction', in Chua, L. , High, C.  and Lau, T. (eds.) How Do We Know? Evidence, Ethnography, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge.  Cambridge Scholars Publishing pp. 1 - 19