Agnieszka Joniak-Lüthi

Agnieszka Joniak-Lüthi, Prof. Dr.

assoziierte Wissenschaftlerin



Research interests

Anthropology of place, space and territory; Spatial transformations; Anthropology of infrastructure (particularly roads); Mundane processes of the state; Majority-minority relations; Identity politics; Ethnicity

Research area

China, Sino-Central Asian borderlands

Short bio

Agnieszka Joniak-Lüthi is SNSF Assistant Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Zurich and head of the project “ROADWORK: An Anthropology of Infrastructure at China’s Inner Asian Borders” ( She graduated in China Studies at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland and completed her PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Bern, Switzerland. She has held research positions and taught Anthropology, China Studies and Central Asian Studies at her alma mater, and at the universities of Bern, St Gallen, Zurich and Fribourg in Switzerland, LMU Munich in Germany and Xinjiang University in China. She has also been a visiting scholar at the University of Washington, Oslo University and the University of Cambridge.

Agnieszka’s regional expertise centers on the People’s Republic of China and the Sino-Central Asian borderlands. She has spent more than four years studying and conducting research in China, first in the lush southwest, then in the megalopolises of Beijing and Shanghai, and since 2011 in the arid northwest. In her post-doctoral research she explored the nexus of transport infrastructure, settler colonialism and processes of state territorialization there. For ROADWORK, Agnieszka will continue her research in northwest China but also plans to expand her field into neighbouring regions of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. She will focus on the challenges of infrastructure maintenance in the fluid landscape of the Sino-Central Asian borderlands, and on how temporalities of materials, investment, discourses, government agendas, ecosystems and humans affect the social life of infrastructures in this part of Asia.

Agnieszka is the author of The Han: China’s Diverse Majority (University of Washington Press, 2015) and the co-editor of the special issue “Spatial Transformations in China’s Northwestern Borderlands” (Inner Asia, 2016). Her articles have been published among others in the Journal of Asian Studies, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Modern Asian Studies, Asian Ethnicity, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (German Journal of Anthropology), and Oxford Bibliographies Online. Agnieszka is also a founding editor of the Open Access e-journal Roadsides devoted to exploring the social life of infrastructure (