The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Student Profiles

Quan Gao
Quan Gao

Project title:
Religion, migration and the postsecular city: politics and poetics of migrant-worker Christians in post-reform Shenzhen, China

Description of Research Project:
Secularization has become the master narrative of social and historical process occurring in western societies and in the cities of some developing countries. It is argued that as society progress, particularly through modernization and rationalization, religion gradually lose its authority and influence in all aspect of social life (Norris and Inglehart, 2011). However, the secularization thesis might face challenges in the context of China. Religion in China has flourished in the past two decades despite the government being an avowedly atheist communist state (Overmyer, 2003). In reality, China was caught in a series of contradictory dynamics of secularization alongside the re-emergence of not only traditional forms of religions but Christianity. This is particularly typical in Shenzhen, China’s first special economic zone open to global capital, in which Christian belief gradually lost its hold on local worshippers and communities, as state-led secularization including industrialization, urbanization and atheist education took hold; in contrast, the massive inflow of migrant labourers from rural areas are sustainably re-invigorating Christian membership in Shenzhen. Interestingly, Christianity has become an anchor of identity and community for a significant proportion of migrant labourers. As David Ley (2011: xiii) recently suggested: “Immigration from the developing world has been one of the forces bringing significant challenges to secularization theory in the old world”. However, there is still insufficient research in geographies of religion examining the role of migration in enabling religion to persist in, or accommodate to, modern society and especially the city, and in other hand, how religion provides migrants with the belief and identity that permit them to negotiate the inequality, disempowerment and other social and moral ills of city and modernity. To this end, this research seeks to explore the politics and ! poetics of the emerging migrant-worker Christians in Shenzhen, and how this phenomenon can contribute to our understanding of the relationship between religion, migration and the machine of secularization in the urban context.


  • Hong Zhu, Quan Gao. Review on “Emotional Turn” and Emotional Geographies in Recent Western Geographic Research. Geographical Research (in Chinese, top 2 geographical journal in China), 2015, 34 (7): 1394-1406.
  • Quan Gao, Junxi Qian. Negotiating Place-restructuring From the Perspective of Emotional Geographies: A Case Study of Lie-de Village, Guangzhou. Human Geography(in Chinese), 2016, 35(6):1-11.
  • Zhong-nuan Chen, Quan Gao, Shuai Wang. The Comprehensive evaluation of China’s urbanization and spatial difference in provincial level. Economic Geography (in Chinese), 2014, 34(6): 54-59.
  • Zhong-nuan Chen, Quan Gao, Shuai Wang. Heavy Industry Development and Urban-Rural Income Inequality: Empirical Analysis Based on China’ s Provincial Panel Data, 2006-2013. Economic Geography (in Chinese). 2016, 36(7):99-106.
  • Zhenjie Yuan, Quan Gao, Min Wang. 2015. The Construction of Politics of Village’s Sacred Space in The Context of Urbanization: A Case Study of The Ancestral Hall in Wenchong Village, Guangzhou. Human Geography, 2016 (in Chinese, forthcoming).
  • Quan Gao, Junxi Qian. Beliefs at the margins: Religion, social transformation and subjectivity construction of peasant-workers in Shenzhen. Taiwanese Journal of Sociology, 2016 (accepted)

"Migrants’ inhabitation of religiosity: Christianity, social transformation and negotiated
empowerment of peasant-workers in Shenzhen" post presentation on 2016 IGC in Beijing.

Qualifications and Achievements:

  • Research assistant, Centre for SCG at South China Normal University, 2015-2016.
  • BA. Geographical Science and Experimental Class of Integrated Talent Cultivation, South China Normal University 2015
  • Research Excellent Academy Studentship at Newcastle University (2016-2019)
  • Second Class Innovative Prize of South China Normal University 2015
  • Top 10 Graduation Thesis of South China Normal University 2015