Tania Li

Insight Award Winner

Tania Li

Department of Anthropology
University of Toronto

SSHRC support enabled me to progress from a young scholar, recipient of a post-doctoral fellowship, through mid-career when I developed my research trajectory, and into a leadership role when I was awarded a Tier One Canada Research Chair.
The ethnographic research I do in Indonesia requires linguistic skills, area knowledge, contacts and expertise that build up over time—hence the value of SSHRC’s sustained support.
This research has attracted the attention of policy-makers and advocacy groups, because very few scholars have had the opportunity to study the plantation world up close. The project included a strong role for my Indonesian collaborators and for both Canadian and Indonesian students, democratizing the research process and extending its scholarly, practical and training value.


Tania Li is a university professor and the former Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy and Culture of Asia at the University of Toronto. A former director of the school’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, she is a cultural anthropologist whose groundbreaking research on industry-connected human rights violations has informed policy decisions in Indonesia and around the world. She has presented research results to decision-makers at institutions like the World Bank, the former Canadian International Development Agency and the European Parliament.

With SSHRC support for her Poverty and Wealth in Indonesia’s New Rural Economies project from 2009 to 2012, Li and her research team closely examined the nature and outcomes of rural land transformation on the islands of Sulawesi and Kalimantan, where human and industry interaction with the environment have changed landscapes and livelihoods in fundamental ways.

Li’s research highlights the value of ethnographic research, and challenges the idea that high-market value agriculture brings uniform development benefits for residents.

Her Poverty and Wealth project has led to a dozen scholarly publications, including her book, Land’s End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier, which won several awards, including the American Ethnological Association’s 2016 Senior Book Prize.

About the award

The annual Impact Awards recognize the highest achievements in SSHRC-funded research, knowledge mobilization and scholarship, as well as the highest achievements resulting from a SSHRC fellowship awarded.

SSHRC’s Insight Award recognizes outstanding achievement by an individual or team whose project has made a significant contribution to knowledge and understanding about people, societies and the world.