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Dr Loretta Lou

Assistant Professor

DPhil (Oxford); MSc(R) (Edinburgh); BA (University of Washington, Seattle)

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Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology  


I am a sociocultural anthropologist specialises in the study of environment, health, activism, and self-development in East Asia. My first project is an ethnographic study of green living and its implications for individuals, society, and activism in postcolonial Hong Kong.

Building on my interest in environmental activism in East Asia, my second research, funded by the ERC project titled 'Toxic Expertise: Environmental Justice and the Global Petrochemical Industry', focuses on the ways mainland Chinese people negotiate and make sense of toxic pollution, their perceptions of (environmental) injustice, and how they cope with contrived ignorance.

My more recent research is concerned with various modalities of healing, therapeutic interventions, and self-development, mostly in non-clinical settings. I have explored ways of healing in the "Body, Mind, Spirituality" (san sam ling) circle in Hong Kong; online coaching for intimacy and interpersonal issues in China; and am looking into the rise of climate change coaches in Europe and the U.S.A. In exploring various modalities of healing, I hope to identify, first and foremost, what healing is and how we heal in today's world. Second, the interconnection between self-transformation and social transformation, and the implications of healing for wellbeing and social justice.

Underpinning all of my research are questions revolve around the interplay between agency and freedom; acceptance and resistance; dependency and in(ter)dependency, and the production of knowledge and ignorance in the most mundane forms in people’s everyday life. 

Prior to Durham, I was Assistant Professor at the University of Macau and held Postdoctoral and Visiting Fellowships at Warwick, Oxford, and the LSE. I am also a Landhaus Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, Germany.

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students working in the intersection of social, environmental, and medical anthropology; and from authors interested in the journal and the book series that I edit. 

Research interests

  • Environment and sustainability
  • Health & wellbeing
  • Planetary health
  • Green politics and philosophy
  • Social movements
  • Therapy and healing
  • Relatedness and (inter)dependence
  • Agency and freedom
  • Production of knowledge and ignorance
  • East Asia (China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan)

Esteem Indicators


Book review

Chapter in book

Journal Article