Tim Oakes photo portrait
Professor of Geography • Cultural Politics; Economic and Social Change; China • Ph.D. University of Washington, 1995
Human Geography

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.


Recent Courses Taught

  • Fall 2020  GEOG 2092  Advanced Introduction to Human Geography
  • Spring 2020  GEOG 2092  Advanced Introduction to Human Geography
  • Fall 2019  GEOG 6742  Seminar in Cultural Geography
  • Fall 2018  GEOG 3822  Geography of China
  • Fall 2017  GEOG 6742  Seminar in Cultural Geography

Recent Publications

Oakes, T. 2020. 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 China, Japan, and Indonesia (Heidelberg: Heidelberg University Press), 13-41.

Oakes, T. 2020. Infrastructures of permanence and deserted architecture in China. Roadsides 4: 68-75. DOI: https://doi.org/10.26034/roadsides-202000409.

Oakes, T. 2020. Afterword: a critical reckoning with the ‘Asian Century’ in the shadow of the Anthropocene. Tourism Geographies. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616688.2020.1833973.

Oakes, T. 2020. Not urban yet, no longer rural. In M. Bonino, F. Carota, F. Governa & S. Pellecchia (eds.), China Goes Urban: The City to Come. Milan: Skira, pp. 198-209.

Oakes, T. 2021. Heritage, ritual space, and contested urbanization in southern China. In Wang, S., M. Rowlands, and Y. Zhu (eds.), Heritage and Religion in East Asia (London & New York: Routledge), 105-124.

Oakes, T. and Z. Zuo. 2021. Remoteness and connectivity: the variegated geographies of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau. The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Highland Asia.

Oakes, T. and Y. Yang. 2021. Dance machine: performing the city in China’s public space. Civilizations 69(1).

Updated December, 2020