Tania Li

University Professor; Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC)
AP 424
(416) 946-3693


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

Areas of Interest / Research Keywords: Economy, development, poverty, land, work, welfare, agriculture, resources, community, class, indigeneity, capitalism, plantation corporations

Research Region: Indonesia, Southeast Asia, Asia


Tania Li’s early research in Southeast Asia concerned urban cultural politics in Singapore. Since then she has focused on culture, economy, environment, and development in Indonesia’s upland regions. She has written about the rise of Indonesia’s indigenous peoples’ movement, land reform, rural class formation, struggles over the forests and conservation, community resource management, state-organized resettlement and the problems faced by people who are pushed off the land in contexts where they have little or no access to waged employment. Her book The Will to Improve explores a century of interventions by colonial and contemporary officials, missionaries, development experts and activists. Powers of Exclusion examines agrarian transition to see what happens to farmers’ access to land in the context of competing land uses (e.g. conservation, urban sprawl, plantation agriculture). Her prize-winning book Land’s End tracks the emergence of capitalist relations among indigenous highlanders when they enclosed their common land. Plantation Life explores the forms of social, political, cultural and economic life that emerge in Indonesia’s oil palm plantation zone.

Honours and Awards

  • 2019       Elected honorary fellow, Royal Anthropological Institute UK
  • 2019       Winner, President’s Impact Award, University of Toronto
  • 2018       Appointed to the rank of University Professor, University of Toronto
  • 2018       Winner, SSHRC Impact Award (Insight category)
  • 2017       Outstanding Teaching Award, Faculty of Arts and Science
  • 2016       George T McKahin Prize, Association for Asian Studies (for Land's End)
  • 2016       Senior Book Prize, American Ethnological Association (for Land's End).
  • 2015       Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
  • 2004-2018            Canada Research Chair, Tier One, renewed

Selected Publications


  • In press  Li, T and P. Semedi Plantation Life: Corporate Occupation in Indonesia’s Oil Palm Zone, Duke University Press
  • 2014       Li, T. Land's End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier. (Duke University Press)
  • 2011       Hall, D, P. Hirsch and T. Li.  Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas  in Southeast Asia, Singapore and Honolulu: National University of Singapore Press / University of Hawaii Press.
  • *2020     Kuasa Eksklusi: Dilema Pertanahan de Asia Tenggara translation into Indonesian INSIST press/ STPN (Indonesian Land University)
  • 2007       Li, T. The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics, Durham: Duke University Press. *Translated and republished in Indonesia by Marjin Kiri, 2012. Translated and republished in French as Agir pour les Autres, Paris:Karthala Press, 2020
  • *Translated and republished in Indonesia by Marjin Kiri, 2012. Under translation into Chinese at Beijing Agricultural University; under translation into French for Kartala Press. Citations May 2018 2600
  • 1999       Li, T. Transforming the Indonesian Uplands: Marginality, Power and Production (editor).  London: Routledge.
  • *Translated and published in Indonesia by Obor Foundation, Jakarta 2002.
  • 1989       Li, T. Malays in Singapore: Culture. Economy and Ideology.  New York and Singapore: Oxford University Press.
  • *Translated into Malay and published by Forum press, Kuala Lumpur 1995.

Recent Articles (from 2016)

  • 2021       Li, T. Commons, co-ops, and corporations: assembling Indonesia’s twenty-first century land reform. The Journal of Peasant Studies 1-27. DOI  10.1080/03066150.2021.1890718
  • 2020       Li, T. Epilogue: Customary Land Rights and Politics, 25 Years On
  • The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 21 (1), 77-84
  • 2019       Li, T. Politics, Interrupted, Anthropological Theory 19(1):29-53
  • 2017       Li, T. After the land grab: Infrastructural violence and the “Mafia System” in Indonesia's oil palm plantation zones. Geoforum 96, 328-337.
  • 2017       Li, T. After Development: Surplus Population and the Politics of Entitlement. Development and Change, 48: 1247–1261.
  • 2017       Li, T. Intergenerational displacement in Indonesia’s oil palm plantation zone. Journal of Peasant Studies 44(6):1158-1176.
  • 2017       Li, T. Rendering land investible: Five notes on time. Geoforum. 82:276-278
  • 2017       Li, T. The price of un/freedom: Indonesia's colonial and contemporary plantation labour regimes. Comparative Studies in Society and History 59(2):245-276
  • 2016       Li, T. Alexandre Pelletier, and Arianto Sangadji. Unfree Labour and Extractive Regimes in Colonial Java and Beyond (book review essay). Development and Change 17(3): 598–611

For a complete list see Google Scholar

Recent Keynote Lectures/Podcasts

Graduate Students


PhD, Cambridge University, 1987