About Ian

Ian is Assistant Professor of Geography and Urban Planning in the School of Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where he holds cross-appointments in the School of Art, Design, and Media, and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. 

His work on culture, politics, and place-making has appeared in The Journal of Asian StudiesAnnals of the American Association of GeographersAnnals of Tourism ResearchAsian AnthropologyInternational Journal of Transitional JusticeThe New York Timesthe BBC ChineseThe Guardian and elsewhere.

He has been a Visiting Scholar at Fudan University (China) and Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen (Germany), a postdoctoral fellow at Academia Sinica (Taiwan), and a Fellow of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Agile Governance. His research has been supported with a Fulbright Fellowship and multiple US National Science Foundation grants. He has delivered invited talks at institutions including Stanford, Harvard, University of California Berkeley, SOAS University of London, and NYU Shanghai. 

Fluent in Mandarin Chinese and proficient in Bahasa Indonesia, he served as lead translator of “Tibetan Environmentalists in China: The King of Dzi,” a book written by journalist and Peking University and UC Berkeley fellow Liu Jianqiang that explores the interface of religion, ecology, and cultural politics in Tibet (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015). Ian’s previous translations credits include such award-winning films as ‘Splendid Float’ and ‘Spider Lilies’, directed by Zero Chou.

Ian at the Grand Pasta'ay Ceremony, central Taiwan mountains, 2016. Photo: M Geier

Ian at the Grand Pasta’ay Ceremony, central Taiwan mountains, 2016. Photo: M Geier

Much of his early scholarly work focuses on the cultural and political geography of both travel and protest between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. Treating tourism as a political technology, he pays particular attention to performances of state territory and ethno-national membership. His newer work examines the politics of emergent historical periodization schemes, such as the World Economic Forum’s “4th Industrial Revolution”, and the hybrid spaces of globalizing cultural movements such as Burning Man. All of these projects are grounded in action research and long-term participant-observation.

Before earning his PhD in Geography from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2016, Ian worked as a translator, journalist, musician, tour guide, hotelier and entrepreneur. He received a B.A. with honors in a double major of Mathematics and East Asian Studies (Chinese), as well as the JWT Youngs Mathematics Prize from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2001, for his senior seminar paper entitled, ‘A Tour of the Hyperreals: An Introduction to Non-standard Analysis’.

Complementing his creative and academic endeavors, Ian currently serves as International Meta-Regional Representative for the Burning Man Project, and served for over a decade as its China and Taiwan Regional Contact. In these capacities, he has designed interactive art pieces, founded events, connected communities, and continues to serve in an advisory role to Project founders, directors and staff.