Tom's blog

Talking to the BBC about social media in China

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 07:42:33 +0000

Earlier this month, I was very fortunate to be interviewed by the BBC on my research onto the use of technology in China. The article that was published as a result of the interview is a good example of ‘public anthropology’, showing how the discipline’s research can made relevant to a wider audience. This commitment […]


Tom McDonald

Tom McDonald


Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
The University of Hong Kong

My main research interests are focused on the material culture of everyday life in modern China. My work is dedicated to using ethnographic engagement to achieve a richer understanding of how the material world is affecting society, social relationships and kinship. My research focusses particularly on the rapidly changing consumptive, spending and exchange practices occurring within China, and the effects this has on family relations, household economies and broader society.

I have recently completed an 18-month period of ethnographic fieldwork on social media use in a small rural Chinese town as part of the UCL Global Social Media Impact Study and am currently working on publications related to this research. I write regularly about my research on the project blog page.

I have also recently concluded a visiting scholar position at Minzu University of China where I am involved in a side-project funded by the Chinese Government examining the diffusion of innovative ecological tourism practices in the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces UNESCO World Heritage site. Publications on this are forthcoming.

McDonald, T. (2011). "Cowboy Cloth" and kinship: The closeness of denim consumption in a south-west Chinese city. Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, 9(1), 76-89. doi:10.2752/175183511X12949158771518

McDonald, T. N. (2013). Structures of hosting in a south-western Chinese town. (PhD Thesis, UCL (University College London)).

McDonald, T. (2014). Senses, Sociality and Salons: Medicinal Hospitality in a Chinese Hair-Dresser's Salon. Ethnos, 1-25. doi:10.1080/00141844.2014.912247

McDonald, T. (2015). Affecting relations: domesticating the internet in a south-western Chinese town. Information, Communication & Society, 18(1), 17-31. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2014.924981

McDonald, T. (2014). Zhongguo beifang xiangcun de shuma gushi (Digital life in rural north China). Chengshi Zhongguo (Urban China), (64), 102-105.

McDonald, T. (2014). Jung guk dosiui ‘Kauboui otgam’ shoping (Diverse denim: shopping for 'Cowboy Cloth' in a Chinese city). In K. -P. Kang, & J. -S. Kim (Eds.), Cheongbaji (Blue Jeans) (pp. 61-68). Seoul: The National Folk Museum of Korea.

McDonald, T. (2015). Desiring mobiles, desiring education: mobile phones and families in a rural Chinese Town. In S. S. Lim (Ed.), Mobile Communication and the Asian family: transforming technologies, changing households. Dordrecht: Springer.

Chan, J. H., Zhang, Y., McDonald, T., & Qi, X. G. (2015). Sustainable tourism in indigenous community: Entrepreneurship and economic development in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In K. Iankova, & A. Hassan (Eds.), Indigenous People and Economic Development: An International Perspective. London: Gower. Retrieved from

Award Year Qualification Institution
2013 PhD Anthropology UCL
2009 MRes Anthropology UCL
2007 BSc Anthropology UCL

European Research CouncilEuropean UnionUCL Department of Anthropology

Grant number: ERC Project 2011-AdG-295486 SocNet
Project title: Social Network Sites and Social Science