Tania Li awarded 2024 Killam Prize in Social Sciences

March 20, 2024 by Cynthia Macdonald

Tania Li, a University Professor in the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts & Science, has been awarded this year’s Killam Prize in Social Sciences.

Killam Prizes are awarded to Canadian scholars who have distinguished themselves through sustained research excellence, making a significant impact in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences and engineering. This year’s award will be presented at a ceremony in Toronto in early November.

Li is the previous winner of a SSHRC Insight Award and a President’s Impact Award. In 2015, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her research concerns land, labour, capitalism, development, politics and Indigeneity with a particular focus on Indonesia. Highly interdisciplinary in nature, Li’s work connects her to scholars in fields such as geography, planning, law, environmental studies, as well as with activists and policy makers.

“Although the world is urbanizing, at least half the population of Asia continues to live in rural areas under conditions that continue to evolve,” the Killam Foundation wrote in announcig Li’s win.

“Focused on Indonesia, Li’s multi-decade field-based research examines the changing rural scene from two angles. In her book Land’s End she explores how family farmers and Indigenous people adapt to new markets, generating change from below; in Plantation Life she examines changes generated from above, and the challenges faced by rural people when large corporations occupy vast areas of land for plantations but offer few jobs. Multiple international prizes, awards and keynote invitations in Asia, Europe and the Americas recognize the scope and importance of Li’s research, her interdisciplinary reach, and her remarkable skills as a public speaker and writer.”

The author of many books, Li 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.

“Anthropologists examine changing lifeworlds by conducting long-term field research in particular places. My focus has been rural Asia — home to more than two billion people, a third of the global population,” Li says. “City dwellers in Asia and here in Canada generally know little about rural areas, but in an interconnected world, this needs to change. I’m thrilled that the decades I have spent conducting research in muddy places and communicating my findings in multiple formats has been recognized with the Killam Prize.”

“I am proud to congratulate University Professor Tania Li on this prestigious scholarly honour,” said Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science. “The Killam Prize — Canada’s most distinguished award for career achievements in research — is great recognition for her work shedding light on virtually every aspect of life in a region of the world that merits our continued care and attention.”

For more on Li’s research and career, visit her website.