Profile image of Gillian Tan

Dr Gillian Tan



Senior Lecturer in Anthropology


Faculty of Arts and Education


School of Hum & Social Science


Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus


Graduate Certificate of Higher Education, Deakin University, 2016
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Melbourne, 2009
Master of Arts, University of Chicago, 1998



Dr Gillian G Tan’s research combines long-term ethnographic fieldwork among nomads of eastern Tibet with theoretical developments in phenomenology and the anthropology of nature. Her work elucidates the multiple ways in which people understand, and live in, their worlds. Her doctoral research explored different perceptions and articulations of change in a Tibetan community among various actors: nomads, the international development industry, the Chinese government and an incarnate lama. Her current research, An Ecology of Religion: re-examining relationships among people, environment and religiosity on the Tibetan plateau, suggests an alternative understanding to human-nonhuman-environment relations and proposes that these interactions adapt to changes based on a system of logic influenced by religious beliefs.

Gillian completed her PhD in Anthropology at the University of Melbourne. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from St John’s College, Santa Fe and the University of Chicago. She has been a Fondation Fyssen postdoctoral fellow at the Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale, Collège de France, where she worked under the direction of Philippe Descola. Gillian has received various Australian and international awards and scholarships, presented at national and international conferences, and published articles and book chapters. Her monograph will soon be published with the University of Washington Press. She is also an international director for a Tibetan non-governmental organization that trains young Tibetans in filmmaking and produces documentaries of contemporary Tibetan life.

Read more on Gillian's profile

Research interests

Anthropology of Nature

Interface between religion and ecology

Nomadic pastoralism and relationship with the state




Member of the Australian Anthropology Society

Member of the American Anthropological Association

Teaching interests

Anthropology of Nature

Interface between religion and ecology

Nomadic pastoralism and relationship with the state



Units taught

ASS203 Being Human (with the Nonhuman)

ASS329 Crime and Violence

ASS102 Culture and Communication

ASS233 Myth and Ritual

ASS330 Cyborg Anthropology

Knowledge areas

Human-environment relations

Tibet - China

Nomadic Pastoralists

Religion and Ecology

Ethnographic Field Methods

Media appearances

Research groups

Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalization

Member, Diversity and Identity research stream

Member, Culture and Heritage research stream


2012-2014 Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

2010  Fondation Fyssen Postdoctoral Fellowship

2005-2008 Australian Postgraduate Award (APA)

2007  Australian Federation of University Women (AFUW) Daphne Elliott Bursary

2006  Australian Government Endeavour Cheung Kong Award


Filter by


The Postcolonial Sacred in the Fiction and Memoirs of Tim Winton

Gillian Tan, Lyn Mc Credden

(2022), pp. 43-55, Ecosustainable Narratives and Partnership Relationships in World Literatures in English, Newcastle upon Tyne, Eng., B1

book chapter


G Tan

(2022), pp. 56-66, Routledge Handbook of Highland Asia, London, Eng., B1

book chapter

Smoky Relations: Beyond Dichotomies of Substance on the Tibetan Plateau

Gillian Tan

(2020), pp. 145-163, Exploring Materiality and Connectivity in Anthropology and Beyond, London, Eng., B1

book chapter

Entre « silence » et expression

Gillian Tan, Anne-Hélène Kerbiriou

(2020), Vol. 44, pp. 67-89, Anthropologie et Sociétés, Ste-Foy, Canada, C1

journal article

Pastoralists by choice: adaptations in contemporary pastoralism in Eastern Kham

Gillian Tan

(2019), pp. 281-306, Frontier Tibet patterns of change in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, B1

book chapter

Pastures of change contemporary adaptations and transformations among nomadic pastoralists of Eastern Tibet

G Tan

(2018), Berlin, Germany, A1


Differentiating Smoke: Smoke as duwa and Smoke from bsang on the Tibetan Plateau

G Tan

(2018), Vol. 28, pp. 126-136, Anthropological Forum, C1

journal article

Society against the state as society against surplus

G Tan

(2018), Vol. 51/52, pp. 177-185, Arena journal, Fitzroy, Vic., C1

journal article

In the circle of white stones: moving through seasons with nomads of Eastern Tibet

G Tan

(2017), Seattle, Wash., A1


"Life" and "freeing life" (tshe thar) among pastoralists of Kham: intersecting religion and environment

G Tan

(2016), Vol. 47, pp. 1-15, Etudes mongoles et siberiennes, centrasiatiques et tibetaines, Paris, France, C1

journal article

Introduction: everyday religion among pastoralists of high and inner Asia

G Tan, N Schneider

(2016), Vol. 47, pp. 1-4, Etudes mongoles et siberiennes, centrasiatiques et tibetaines, Paris, France, C1

journal article

An ecology of religiosity: re-emphasizing relationships between humans and nonhumans

G Tan

(2014), Vol. 8, pp. 307-328, Journal for the study of religion, nature and culture, Sheffield, England, C1

journal article

An ethnography of life and changes among Tibetan nomads of Minyag Dora Karmo, Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province

G Tan

(2013), Vol. 43-44, pp. 1-18, Etudes Mongoles et Siberiennes, Centrasiatiques et Tibetaines, Paris, France, C1

journal article

Transforming history and myth: on the mutuality and separation of shared narratives in Eastern Tibet

G Tan

(2013), Vol. 24, pp. 193-212, Australian journal of anthropology, Chichester, England, C1

journal article

Re-examining human-nonhuman relations among nomads of Eastern Tibet

G Tan

(2012), Geelong, Vic, A6

research report/technical paper

History's motion : on absolute time and space in Tibet

G Tan

(2011), pp. 163-175, Force, movement, intensity : the Newtonian imagination in the humanities and social sciences, Melbourne, Vic, B1-1

book chapter

A modern portrait of a Tibetan incarnate lama

G Tan

(2010), pp. 123-135, New views of Tibetan culture, Melbourne, Vic., B1-1

book chapter

Eating as a total social fact

G Tan

(2010), pp. 92-94, The Malaysian way of life : perspectives of a nation's culture and politics, Kuala Lumper, Malaysia, B1-1

book chapter

Senses of waiting among Tibetan nomads

G Tan

(2009), pp. 66-75, Waiting, Melbourne, Vic, B1-1

book chapter

Funded Projects at Deakin

Australian Competitive Grants

Troubled Waters: Tibet's Rivers and Their Connection to Climate Change

Dr Gillian Tan, Prof John Powers, Asst/Prof James Pittock, Prof Petra Maurer, Dr Sara Beavis, Dr Ruth Gamble, A/Prof Per Sorensen, Dr Yangmotso Yangmotso

ARC - Discovery Projects

  • 2023: $4,782
  • 2021: $140,240
  • 2020: $108,569
  • 2019: $161,191


Associate Supervisor

Samson Keam

Thesis entitled: Revitalising Hydraulic Civilisation: Crisis and state power in post-conflict Sri Lanka

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Sara Cheikh Husain

Thesis entitled: Muslim Community Organisations' Understanding of and Responses to Islamophobia

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences