Tania Li

My research since 1990 has focused on Indonesia where I have examined issues of land, labour, class, capitalism, resources and indigeneity in relation to the broad theme of rural development. Now I am shifting my focus to the university worlds that have formed the unexamined context of my life as a scholar and teacher. Like the international development field that I examined in The Will to Improve (Duke University Press, 2007), the university is a complex institutional configuration that has come to seem natural and self-evident. Yet some searching questions can be posed about it: what is a university? How does it work? How is it experienced by the people who live, work and study in its shadow? These are huge questions and I look forward to working with an outstanding interdisciplinary team of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students to start to answer them.

My role in the project is overall coordination, and I have a particular interest in two areas: 1) Engaging students in primary research about the university through ethnographic practicum classes, building on the work I have conducted over the past 10 years through my courses on the Ethnography of the University; 2) Examining the university as an employer – actually one of the GTA’s biggest employers – as a window onto institutional decision making and the everyday experiences of people who work here in different capacities and fields.