John Lie (pronounced "Lee") was born in South Korea, grew up in Japan and in Hawaii, and attended Harvard University where he received A.B. magna cum laude in Social Studies in 1982 and Ph.D. in Sociology in 1988. Currently he is C.K. Cho Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Taking literally C. Wright Mills's notion of the sociological imagination to study the intersection of biography, history, and social structure Lie's sociological imagination trilogy has explored his Korean origins and Korean diasporic trajectories. The trilogy includes Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots (with Nancy Abelmann, Harvard University Press, 1995), Han Unbound: The Political Economy of South Korea (Stanford University Press, 1998), and Multiethnic Japan (Harvard University Press, 2001). A recent addition to this corpus is Zainichi (Koreans in Japan): Diasporic Nationalism and Postcolonial Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008). An envoi, The Korean Diaspora, is forthcoming.
Lie's main scholarly interest is social theory. After working on a reconceptualization of "markets," he sought to rethink the categories of modern peoplehood - race, ethnicity, and nation - which was published as Modern Peoplehood (Harvard University Press, 2004). He is currently working on a systematic work of social theory, tentatively entitled The Consolation of Social Theory. In addition, he is completing a series of books on topics that have bedeviled him: violence, democracy, and the modern (global) university. He also serves on the editorial board of over a dozen journals.
Lie has also devoted considerable energy to undergraduate teaching and academic administration. His interest in pedagogy has culminated in an introductory textbook, Sociology: Your Compass for a New Century (with Robert Brym, Wadsworth, 2003), which has been translated into many languages. From 2004 to 2009, he was the Dean of International and Area Studies at Berkeley.
Before joining the Berkeley faculty, Lie was Head of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for five years, and directed the Center for Japanese Studies and the Korean Studies Program at the University of Michigan. In addition to Illinois and Michigan, he has taught at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Yonsei University (South Korea), University of Oregon, Keio University (Japan), National Taiwan University, University of Waikato (New Zealand), Harvard University, and several others institutions around the world.
Finally, Lie has longstanding interests in imaginative literature, philology, musicology, oenology, gastronomy, and bibliography.