Lie, John 1959- (John Jaehoon Lie)

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Lie, John 1959- (John Jaehoon Lie)


Surname is pronounced "Lee"; born November 5, 1959, in Seoul, South Korea; immigrated to United States, 1970; son of Harry and Jane Lie. Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1982, A.M., 1984, Ph.D., 1988.


Office—Department of Sociology, 410 Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 95720-1980. E-mail—[email protected].


University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign, head of sociology department, beginning 1996; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, professor of sociology, 2001-05; University of California—Berkeley, Class of 1950 Professor and Dean of International and Area Studies, 2005—.


American Sociology Association.


Readings and Study Guide: Introduction to Sociology, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1991.

(Editor and translator) The Impoverished Spirit in Contemporary Japan, Monthly Review Press (New York, NY), 1993.

(Editor) Global Sociology, Simon & Schuster Custom (Needham Heights, MA), 1994.

(With Nancy Abelman) Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1995.

Han Unbound: The Political Economy of South Korea, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1998.

Multiethnic Japan, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

(With Robert J. Brym) Sociology: Compass for a New Century, Wadsworth (Belmont, CA), 2002, 2nd edition published as Sociology: Your Compass for a New World, Wadsworth/Thomson Learning (Belmont, CA), 2003, 3rd edition, 2007, brief edition, 2006, 2nd brief edition, 2007.

Modern Peoplehood, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.

Also author of Sociology of Contemporary Japan, a special issue of Current Sociology, 1996.


Sociologist John Lie has received critical praise for his books exploring his Korean ethnicity and the Korean diaspora. In Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots, written with Nancy Abelman, Lie examines the dynamics involved in the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which broke out after a mostly white jury returned a not-guilty verdict in the trial of police officers accused of viciously beating a black man, Rodney King. Outraged at this result, thousands of African Americans took to the streets and began destroying property; scores of lives were lost during six days of rioting, looting, and arson. Looters particularly targeted businesses owned by Korean Americans. The riots drew attention to the entrenched racism in American culture and especially in Los Angeles. At the same time, the incident demonstrated that this racism was not simply a matter of negative attitudes between whites and blacks, but it also encompassed hatred and fear between Asians and blacks.

Lie and Abelman point out that conflict between Korean immigrants and blacks in Los Angeles did not spring up suddenly in 1992 but had deeper roots. Immigrants brought some racist assumptions with them from Korea; their experiences in the United States served to exacerbate some negative attitudes toward other ethnic groups. As Eugene C. Kim put it in an International Migration Review assessment of Blue Dreams, Lie and Abelman write that "Korean Americans not only reveal discriminatory and provincial attitudes against other ethnic minorities in the United States, but also among Koreans themselves, based on their socioeconomic status and the regional origins in their native land." Lie and Abelman explain how the immigrant experience for Koreans, founded on the dream of an ideal life in a new country, turned sour in the face of American realities.

Han Unbound: The Political Economy of South Korea provides an analysis of South Korea's economic growth from the 1950s to the 1980s. Lie writes that an understanding of the country's political climate and processes is central to an understanding of economic institutions and processes, and he discusses economic, social, and political factors in South Korea's economic success. According to Aie-Rie Lee, writing in American Political Science Review, Lie "views development in South Korea as a sequence of structural opportunities and constraints … [and] emphasizes conflicts, brutality, class struggle, and subculture variations in Korean society." The reviewer admired Lee's consideration of both internal and external factors in the country's economic development, noting that this perspective distinguishes his book from others on the subject. "To pull together these complex themes," wrote Lee, "is an extraordinary feat. What is more, Lie combines a solid understanding of the intellectual roots of political economy with a remarkable breadth and depth of knowledge of Korean history." Pacific Affairs contributor Eun Mee Kim also praised the book, calling it an "excellent account of how South Korea attained its phenomenal economic development." William A. Douglas, reviewing Han Unbound in Perspectives on Political Science, noted that Lie's "being of Korean descent and knowing the language give his study further depth and understanding," and that Lie's use of Korean literature the stories of actual people "bring his narrative to life."

In Multiethnic Japan, Lie challenges the view that Japan is an ethnically homogeneous country. He argues that ethnic minorities, including the Ainu, Burakumin, Okinawans, Koreans, and Chinese, were part of Japan from premodern times. Moreover, Japan's colonization of Taiwan, Korea, and parts of China in the late 1800s resulted in emigration from these regions to Japan, adding to the country's ethnic mix. The image of Japan as ethnically homogeneous, Lie argues, emerged only after World War II when the Japanese for the first time possessed the wealth and political means to perceive themselves as a distinct whole. "Lie compares Japanese experiences of race, ethnicity and nationality to similar experiences in the United States, Britain, and Europe, concluding that the Japanese are not particularly racist," commented John B. Richards in Ethnic Studies Review. "The comparisons warn us not to set the Japanese too apart from ourselves, but fall short of satisfying comparative analysis." Social Forces reviewer Keiko Yamanaka hailed Multiethnic Japan as a "stimulating and challenging book" that raises "sober questions about Japan's postwar amnesia toward the recent past—an amnesia that has led to widespread dissemination of a revisionist history and uncritical acceptance of the deceptive self-image of ethnic homogeneity."

Lie tackles a more general topic in Modern Peoplehood, which attempts to explain how communal identities are developed and used. Lie argues that the concept of the modern nation-state is based on the idea of peoplehood, a community with shared language, culture, and often ethnicity and religion. As Mark Juergensmeyer summarized in his review of the book in Christian Century, "All religious and ethnic communities that are not defined by nations are potentially political. They are revolutionary or separatist communities waiting in the wings, able at any moment to clamor for their own political identity along the model that the modern state has provided." The fact that violent challenges to secular authority in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries are founded on religious and ethnic ideas of peoplehood, Lie writes, is a logical result of the concept of the modern state. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other terrorist acts, for Lie, are part of what, in Juergensmeyer's words, can be seen as the "tragic irony of history: modernity, based on the concepts of national communities—of ‘peoplehood’—planted the seeds that have given rise to its corruption."



American Anthropologist, June 1, 1996, Kyeyoung Park, review of Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots, p. 449.

American Journal of Sociology, September 1, 1995, Pyong Gap Min, review of Blue Dreams, p. 520; July 1, 2000, Hagen Koo, review of Han Unbound: The Political Economy of South Korea, p. 248; July 1, 2006, Christian Joppke, review of Modern Peoplehood, p. 326.

American Political Science Review, March 1, 1999, Aie-Rie Lee, review of Han Unbound, p. 228.

Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, November 1, 1999, Karl Fields, review of Han Unbound, p. 167.

Asian Affairs, March 1, 2003, Ian Neary, review of Multiethnic Japan, p. 81.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, July 1, 1995, J.R. Feagan, review of Blue Dreams, p. 1803; October 1, 1998, K.B. Lee, review of Han Unbound, p. 366.

Christian Century, January 25, 2005, Mark Juergensmeyer, review of Modern Peoplehood, p. 36.

Contemporary Sociology, July 1, 1995, Michael Omi, review of Blue Dreams, p. 315; July 1, 1999, Alvin Y. So, review of Han Unbound, p. 460; March 1, 2006, Mark Tilton, review of Modern Peoplehood, p. 144.

Current Anthropology, February 1, 1997, Laurel Kendall, review of Blue Dreams, p. 145.

Economic History Review, November 1, 1999, Judith Cherry, review of Han Unbound, p. 840.

Ethnic and Racial Studies, April 1, 1997, Jeanette Diaz-Veizades, review of Blue Dreams, p. 442; March 1, 2002, review of Multiethnic Japan, p. 357.

Ethnic Studies Review, summer, 2006, John B. Richards, review of Multiethnic Japan.

International Journal, summer, 1998, review of Han Unbound.

International Migration Review, winter, 1996, Eugene C. Kim, review of Blue Dreams.

Journal of Contemporary Asia, January 1, 1995, Brendan Luyt, review of The Impoverished Spirit in Contemporary Japan, p. 123.

Journal of Developing Areas, spring, 1998, Walter Arnold, review of Han Unbound.

Journal of Development Studies, February 1, 2002, Chang Kyung-Sup, review of Han Unbound, p. 167.

Journal of Urban History, March 1, 2000, Heather Ann Thompson, review of Blue Dreams, p. 391.

Library Journal, February 1, 2001, Kitty Chen Dean, review of Multiethnic Japan, p. 114.

Pacific Affairs, fall, 1994, Millie R. Creighton, review of The Impoverished Spirit in Contemporary Japan; spring, 2000, Eun Mee Kim, review of Han Unbound.

Perspectives on Political Science, winter, 1999, William A. Douglas, review of Han Unbound, p. 50.

Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2004, Robert J. Brym, review of Sociology: Your Compass for a New World, 2nd edition, p. 126; May 1, 2005, review of Sociology, p. 142; May 1, 2007, review of Sociology, 2nd brief edition.

Social Forces, June 1, 1999, review of Han Unbound, p. 1656; June 1, 2002, Keiko Yamanaka, review of Multiethnic Japan, p. 1410.

Times Literary Supplement, August 18, 1995, Michael Tonry, review of Blue Dreams, p. 25.


University of California—Berkeley, Department of Sociology Web site, (January 9, 2008), John Lie faculty profile.