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Lisa Tilley

Lecturer in Politics (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow)

MSc Global Environmental Politics and Policy Programme Director

Lisa Tilley joined Birkbeck in September 2018 after holding previous positions at Warwick and Queen Mary. Her research interests are largely anchored in critical approaches to political sociology, economy and ecology but also cross over into critical geography and urban studies. She draws on various theoretical approaches to ‘the colonial question’ in material analyses of accumulation and expropriation with a special focus on frontiers of capital in Indonesia. Her work has appeared in New Political Economy, Sociology, and Asia Pacific Viewpoint among other journals and edited collections.

Lisa also co-founded the collaborative research project Raced Markets, which explores ‘race’ in relation to political economy, while her other positions include Associate Editor of the pedagogical resource Global Social Theory and co-convenor of the Colonial, Postcolonial, Decolonial Working Group of the British International Studies Association (CPD-BISA).


  • Race, gender, class
  • Political Sociology, Economy & Ecology
  • Indonesia and Southeast Asia
  • The Colonial Question
  • Urban life
  • Extractives and rural expropriation

The central concern of Lisa’s work relates to how race and other intersecting forms of hierarchised difference enable processes of accumulation and expropriation, at the same time as the economy itself is productive of race. She has analysed key sites of colonial/capitalist expansion – the plantation, the mine, and the city – adding detail to our knowledge of social and ecological formations, technologies and logics produced through those locations. Most of her fieldwork-intensive research has been conducted in Southeast Asia, specifically across the rural and urban frontiers of Indonesia.

Lisa is currently Early Career Fellow on the Leverhulme project Race, Intimacy, and Extraction on an Internal Frontier. This is a three-year research project exploring social and ecological transformations provoked by the extension of mining operations across an extractive frontier within Indonesia. This study considers the internal frontier as a site of enclosure and expropriation, but also as the location of ‘difference’ as the home of Indigenous and racialised populations who contradict the state’s idea of the ‘proper citizen.’ Overall, the study reveals a picture of the production of a regime of racial difference which structures corporate operations in the local area in the service of a broader economy of extraction.

Selected Publications

Academic Articles and Book Chapters

Tilley, L. (2020 accepted, forthcoming) “A Strange Industrial Order:” Indonesia’s Racialized Plantation Ecologies and Anticolonial Estate Worker Rebellions. History of the Present Vol 10 (1).

Tilley, L., Elias, J., & Rethel, L. (2019) Evictions, Public Housing, and the Rationalisation of Kampung Life in JakartaAsia Pacific Viewpoint 60(1).

Tilley, L. (2017). Resisting Piratic Method by Doing Research Otherwise. Sociology, 51(1), 27-42.

Tilley, L., & Shilliam, R. (2018). Raced Markets: An Introduction. New Political Economy 23 (5), 534—543.

Parasram, A., & Tilley, L. (2018) Global Environmental Harm, Internal Frontiers, and Indigenous Protective Ontologies. In O. Rutazibwa and R. Shilliam (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Postcolonial Politics.

Tilley, L., Elias, J., & Rethel, L. (2017). Undoing Ruination in Jakarta: The Gendered Remaking of Life on a Wasted Landscape. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 19(4), 522-529.

Tilley, L., Elias, J., & Rethel, L. (2019) The Production and Contestation of Exemplary Centres in Southeast AsiaAsia Pacific Viewpoint 60(1)

Bhambra, G. K., Last, A., Mayblin, L., & Tilley, L. (2018). Global Social Theory: Building resources. Area.

Bhambra, G. K., Medien, K., & Tilley, L (forthcoming 2020). Theory for a Global Age: From Nativism to Neoliberalism and Beyond. Current Sociology

Rethel, L., Elias, J., & Tilley, L. (Accepted, forthcoming 2020) “Tales from two cities: Financialisation, consumerism and affordable housing in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta” In J. Fischer, J. Jammes (Eds.) Muslim Piety as Economy: Markets, Meaning and Morality in Southeast Asia, London: Routledge

Elias, J., Rethel, L., & Tilley, L. (Accepted, forthcoming 2019) “IPE and IPS meet in Jakarta: feminist research agendas seen through everyday life” contribution to the forum: International Political Economy (IPE) meets International Political Sociology (IPS) International Relations

Tilley, L., Kumar, A., & Cowan, T. (2017). Enclosures and Discontents: Primitive Accumulation and Resistance Under Global Capital.

Tilley, L. (2017). "Well, City Boy Rangoon, it's time to stitch up the evening": material, meaning, and Man in the (post)colonial city. In Jackson, M. (Ed.) Coloniality, Ontology, and the Question of the Posthuman, Routledge.

Tilley, L. (2017). Immanent Politics in the Kampungs: Gendering, Performing, and Mapping the Jakarta Economic Subject. In A. Lacey (Ed.) Women, Urbanization and Sustainability, Palgrave Macmillan.

Special Issues

Co-editor: Raced Markets: A special issue on race and political economy for the journal New Political Economy (published 2018)

Co-editor: The Production and Contestation of Exemplary Centres in Southeast Asia. A special issue for the journal Asia Pacific Viewpoint (forthcoming 2018)

Co-editor: Enclosures and Discontents: A special issue examining the concept of ‘primitive accumulation’ today from various global theoretical and empirical perspectives for the journal City (published 2017)

Co-editor: Theory for a Global Age: A special issue for the journal Current Sociology (forthcoming 2020)

Selected Blogs and Media Contributions

Simones’ Cities: Ain’t it hard just to live? Forthcoming as part of a forum co-edited with Aya Nassar for Dialogues in Human Geography on AbdouMaliq Simone’s book Improvised Lives

Imagining Africa – ‘White civilizational vitality’ across time and space. Forthcoming for The Disorder of Things as part of a forum on Clive Gabay’s book Imagining Africa

(Post)colonial Lives of Property and the Contradictions of Use. The Disorder of Things

Populist Academics, Colonial Demography, and Far-right Discursive Ecologies Discover Society

But what about the aid worker?’ Al Jazeera

Interview – Lisa Tilley. E-International Relations

Editor and contributor: Forum on ‘Race and the Undeserving Poor’. The Disorder of Things

Shilliam’s Undeserving Refusal. Or, why a relational politics of liberation was always (is always) possible. The Disorder of Things

Recasting and Re-racialising the ‘Third World’ in ‘emerging market’ terms: Understanding market emergence in historical colonial perspective. Discover Society

Review: Connected Sociologies. E-International Relations

The Making of the ‘White Working Class’. Wildcat Dispatches

Fragments from a Critical Geography Conference. The Disorder of Things

Negotiating Ramadan in Indonesia. Discover Society

Nina Simone. Global Social Theory

Sylvia Wynter. Global Social Theory

The Human. Global Social Theory



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