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About Lisa Hoffman

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 has spent extensive time living and working in China, including teaching English in Beijing (1988-1989) and teaching courses on gender theory and the sociology of sexuality at Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong University.
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.  It 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, her analytical approach is to examine practices, techniques, and mechanisms of governing that are not confined to institutional or sovereign spaces. In addition, conceptualizing and teaching courses in the urban studies program has impacted the way she approaches intersections of subjectivity and spatiality; the gendering of cities; and the importance of studying non-western urban processes and futures. 

More specifically, her research has focused on the emergence of professionals/ism and volunteers/ism in urban China; questions of neoliberalism through a governmentality lens; the mutual constitutiveness of spatiality and subjectivity in global city-building; experiences of homelessness and citizenship formation; and regimes of green urbanisms.  Her current major research project examines new modes of solving social problems in the city, specifically volunteerism and charitable giving in urban China.  She also has collected over forty oral histories with former students of Tacoma's Japanese Language School (with Mary Hanneman), which address questions of belonging, the social constitution of the built landscape, and paths to citizenship.  This important thread of her work, the relationship between subjectivity and spatiality, has also led most recently to a co-edited volume (with Heather Merrill) that builds on the unique cultural marxist approach of geographer Allan Pred.  The volume, Spaces of Danger: Culture and Power in the Everyday, is currently under review at University of Georgia Press.


Present Professor, University of Washington Tacoma Urban Studies

Curriculum Vitae


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


2000 Ph.D, University of California, Berkeley ‐ Department of Anthropology
1993 M.A., University of California, Berkeley ‐ Department of Anthropology
1992 M.A., University of Washington ‐ China Regional Studies
1988 B.A., Yale University ‐ Philosophy

Books (2)

Articles (11)

Book Chapters (7)

Book Reviews (2)