Ph.D., Geography, University of Washington, 1995
M.A., Geography, University of Washington, 1991
B.A., Asian Studies, Colby College, 1987

CAS Speaker Bureau Topic(s)

Contemporary Chinese culture and society; tourism; regional development; urbanization; leisure studies

Regional and Thematic Interests

East Asia
Cultural Studies; Government/Political Systems; Media Studies; Environment

Research Interests

My work focuses on social and cultural transformation in contemporary China and, in particular, the uses and reinventions of local culture as a resource for economic development and governance objectives. I have explored this theme in the contexts of ethnic tourism and craft commodity production, cultural heritage development, and urban redevelopment and planning. My most recent research explores the development and use of leisure and consumption spaces in China’s urban areas, as well as in urbanizing areas of rural China. I am currently working on urban planning and infrastructural urbanism in China’s ‘New Area’ urban zones.

Current Research

I am the project director for "China Made: Asian Infrastructures and the 'China Model' of Development", funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. For more information on this project, see China Made Project. A brief article about the project is in A&S Magazine. Over the past decade, China has invested tremendously in infrastructure development, resulting in dramatic social and cultural changes in both rural and urban regions. It has also promoted an infrastructural development model beyond its borders as part of a newly aggressive foreign policy. China Made will explore both of these domestic and international dimension of China’s infrastructure development. The project is also meant to shift the academic focus from broader geopolitical and international relations perspectives to a finer grained analysis of the infrastructures themselves and the on-the-ground social and cultural dimensions of their construction. China Made is a partnership between the Center for Asian Studies and the Hong Kong Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences.

More Info

I received my PhD in geography from the University of Washington in 1995, and BA in East Asian Studies from Colby College in 1987. I have held visiting faculty appointments at the University of Iowa, the University of Technology Sydney, Guizhou Minzu University, Wageningen University, the National University of Singapore, and the University of Hong Kong. I am a research affiliate with the Cornell University Contemporary China Initiative, as well as with the Media Studies Department at the College of Media, Communication, and Information here at CU Boulder.

Selected Publications

Oakes, T. (2018). Making cultural cities in China: governance, state-building, and precarious creativity. Environment and Planning A: Economy & Space.

Oakes, T. 2018. Leisure as governable space: transcultural leisure and governmentality in contemporary China. In R. Wagner, C. Yeh, E. Menegon, and R. Weller (eds.) Testing the Margins of Leisure: Case Studies on East Asia (Heidelberg: Heidelberg University Press).

Oakes, T. (2017). Catastrophic Asia: an introduction. Journal of Asian Studies 76(2): 401-407.

Oakes, T. (2017). Happy town: cultural governance and biopolitical urbanism in China. Environment and Planning A. 10.1177/0308518X17693621

Oakes, T. (2017). Mediating Asia: information, democracy and the state in and before the digital age. International Journal of Communication 17:

Oakes, T. (2016). Villagizing the city: turning rural ethnic heritage into urban modernity in southwest China. International Journal of Heritage Studies 22(10): 751-765.

Wang, J., T. Oakes, and Y. Yang. (2016). Making Cultural Cities in Asia: Mobility, Assemblage, and the Politics of Aspirational Urbanism. London & New York: Routledge.