Java Language Obtain class that satisfies generic parameter at runtime


Many unbound generic parameters, like those used in a static method, cannot be recovered at runtime (see Other Threads on Erasure). However there is a common strategy employed for accessing the type satisfying a generic parameter on a class at runtime. This allows for generic code that depends on access to type without having to thread type information through every call.


Generic parameterization on a class can be inspected by creating an anonymous inner class. This class will capture the type information. In general this mechanism is referred to as super type tokens, which are detailed in Neal Gafter's blog post.


Three common implementations in Java are:

Example usage

public class DataService<MODEL_TYPE> {
     private final DataDao dataDao = new DataDao();
     private final Class<MODEL_TYPE> type = (Class<MODEL_TYPE>) new TypeToken<MODEL_TYPE>
     public List<MODEL_TYPE> getAll() {
         return dataDao.getAllOfType(type);

// the subclass definitively binds the parameterization to User
// for all instances of this class, so that information can be 
// recovered at runtime
public class UserService extends DataService<User> {}

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
          UserService service = new UserService();
          List<User> users = service.getAll();