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Lisa Hoffman, Ph.D.

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University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
China Regional Studies
University of Washington
Yale University


Lisa Hoffman came to UW Tacoma in the fall of 2002. She received her BA in Philosophy from Yale University (1988), her MA in China Regional Studies from UW Seattle's Jackson School of International Studies (1992) and her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology at UC Berkeley (2000).

She defines her interdisciplinary and yet anthropological work as anthropology of the urban. Broadly speaking, her scholarship has focused on questions of power, governing and social change, with a particular interest in subjectivity. Geographically, the majority of her work has been located in urban China, with an extension of these organizing questions into other realms in the United States, such as homelessness, ethnic identity, and the molecularization of life.

Her analytical approach has been strongly influenced by the work of Michel Foucault – especially in terms of how she thinks about power, technologies of governing, and subject formation processes. In all research projects, she examines practices, techniques, and mechanisms of governing that are not confined to institutional or sovereign spaces. In addition, her scholarship continues to ask questions about the mutual constitution of spatiality and subjectivity, whether in global city-building, second-generation Japanese American urban identity, or relationships between biomedical ecosystems and “local cultures.”

More specifically, major projects include the emergence of professionals/ism and volunteers/ism in urban China; questions of neoliberalism through a governmentality lens; relations between spatiality and subjectivity in urban transformations; as well as identity formation; experiences of homelessness and citizenship formation; and regimes of green urbanisms. This includes a recent co-edited volume with Heather Merrill, (Spaces of Danger: Culture and Power in the Everyday, University of Georgia Press) that builds on the unique cultural marxist approach of geographer Allan Pred.

She has recently completed a book manuscript with historian Mary Hanneman based on over forty interviews with second-generation Japanese Americans who were born and grew up in Tacoma prior to incarceration during WWII. It examines identity and community formation through analytical lenses of spatiality and transnationalism. This project has an online component through the work of Sarah Pyle while she was an MS student in Geospatial Technologies. Together, this work aims to contribute to public scholarship of our region.

Her current project, Precision Medicine and Contemporary Formations of Life, considers how the broad field termed “precision medicine” is shaping contemporary practices of living. This new project asks, how are the accelerated molecularization and genomic understandings of life shifting ideas of illness and risk, while also producing new regimes of healthful living and new forms of machine-generated truths? The project is located in the Seattle area, which is said to have a “collaborative” medicine and biotech research ecosystem, again raising scholarly questions about intersections of spatiality and subjectivity.


  • T URB 101 Exploring Cities: An Introduction to Urban Studies
  • T URB 314 Gender and the Urban Landscape
  • T URB 315 Homes, Housing, and Homelessness
  • T URB 316 Cities and Citizenship
  • T URB 430 Pacific Rim Cities
  • T URB 492 Urban Studies Capstone Seminar
  • TSMIN 436 Contemporary Chinese Culture and Society
Selected Publications

Hoffman, Lisa M. 2019. “Invasion and Citizen Mobilization: Urban Natures in Dalian, China.” In Grounding Urban Natures: Histories and Futures of Urban Ecologies, edited by Henrik Ernstson and Sverker Sorlin, 201-221, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Hoffman, Lisa M. 2019. “Invasion and Citizen Mobilization: Urban Natures in Dalian, China.” In Grounding Urban Natures: Histories and Futures of Urban Ecologies, edited by Henrik Ernstson and Sverker Sorlin, 201-221, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

“Reflecting on Affect and Urbanism” blog post, Asian Urbanism Cluster, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore; (2018).

"Urban Studies and Thinking Topologically”, co-author Jim Thatcher, in Territory, Politics, Governance. Accepted, June 2017.

“’Doing Good’: Affect, Neoliberalism, and Responsibilization among Volunteers in China and the US” with Hope Reidun St. John, in Assembling Neoliberalism: Expertise, Practices, Subjects, Edited by Vaughan Higgins and Wendy Larner, Palgrave Macmillan USA: 243-262, 2017.

Spaces of Danger: Culture and Power in the Everyday, Co-edited volume with Heather Merrill, University of Georgia Press, Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation. Book Series, 2015.

Serving and Providing for Those ‘In Need’: ‘Intermediary’ Spaces and Practices of Liaising, Collaborating, and Mobilizing in Urban China” in New Mentalities of Government in China, edited by David Bray and Elaine Jeffreys, Routledge, 2015.

“Partnering for a Seamless Transition to Higher Education: Lessons Learned” co-authored with Mark Brown and Dylan Medina; in Special Edition of The Colloquium for Information System Security Education (CISSE): Educational Approaches to Transition former Military Personnel into the Cybersecurity Field Spring 2015 Edition 2, Issue 2.

"Tacoma's Japanese Language School: An Alternative Path to Citizenship and Belonging in Pre-WWII Urban America," Conflux. Paper 6., pp. 1-17, 2014. 

"The Urban, Politics, and Subject Formation," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(5); pp. 1576-1588. (2014)

"Decentralization as a Mode of Governing the Urban in China: Reforms in Welfare Provisioning and the Rise of Volunteerism," in Pacific Affairs 86(4); see also, (2013).

"Contemporary Technologies of City-Building in China: Urban "Modeling" and Regimes of Green Urbanisms" in Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global, Ananya Roy and Aihwa Ong eds., The Studies in Urban and Social Change Book Series, Blackwell, (2011).

Patriotic Professionalism in Urban China: Fostering Talent, Temple University Press, 2010, see

"Governmental Rationalities of Environmental City-Building in Contemporary China" in China's Governmentalities: Governing Change, Changing Government, Elaine Jeffreys, ed., Routledge Studies on China in Transition, 2009.

"Dignity and Indignation: How People Experiencing Homelessness View Services and Providers" (with Brian Coffey), The Social Science Journal, Volume 45, Number 2, pp. 207-222, 2008.

"Post-Mao Professionalism: Self-Enterprise and Patriotism" in Privatizing China, Socialism from Afar. Li Zhang and Aihwa Ong, eds., Ithica: Cornell University Press, pp. 168-181, 2008.

"Environment and Value in Dalian, China" () in Chinese language journal (Dalian Real Estate) Vol. 7, September 2007, summary of conference proceedings publication, translation with Wang Xiuping and journal editors, pp. 36-38, 2007.

"Autonomous Choices and Patriotic Professionalism: On Governmentality in Late-Socialist China" Economy and Society Volume 34, Number 4, pp. 550-570, 2006.

"Notes on the Anthropology of Neoliberalism," (with Monica DeHart and Stephen J. Collier), in Anthropology Newsletter, Vol. 47, No. 4, September 2006, pp. 9-10, 2006.

"Urban Transformation and Professionalization: Translocality and Rationalities of Enterprise in Post-Mao China" in Translocal China: Linkages, Identities, and the Reimagining of Space. Tim Oakes and Loisa Schein, eds., London and New York: Routledge, pp. 109-137, 2006.

"Enterprising Cities and Citizens: The Re-Figuring of Urban Spaces and the Making of Post-Mao Professionals" in Provincial China, Volume 8, Number 1, pp. 5-26, 2003.

"Guiding College Graduates to Work: Social Constructions of Labor Markets in Dalian" in China Urban: Ethnographies of Contemporary Culture. Nancy Chen, Constance Clark, Suzanne Gottschang and Lyn Jeffery, eds. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 43-66, 2001.

"Rural Urbanization on the Liaodong Peninsula: A Village, A Town, and a Nongmin Cheng" (with Liu Zhongquan), in Farewell to Peasant China: Rural Urbanization and Social Change in the Late Twentieth Century. Gregory Eliyu Guldin, ed. Armonk, New York: ME Sharpe, pp. 151-182, 1997.