My research and teaching examines the significance of culture, law and politics in social processes of state-making and governance. I am working on a book on the significance of law and race in the making of “direct rule” in the modern British Empire. Focusing on the re-constitution of Jamaica and the Straits Settlements (Singapore, Penang and Malacca) as Crown Colonies in the latter half of the nineteenth century, this project examines the workings (and postcolonial legacies) of liberal imperialism in relation to colonies marked as plural societies. Notably, my dissertation on this topic won the University of California, San Diego’s 2018 Chancellor’s Dissertation Medal (Social Sciences).
I am collaborating with Professor Lynette J. Chua of the National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS College on a historical-ethnographic project on the colonial and postcolonial governance of epidemics. This ongoing project, “Governing through Contagion,” charts the origins and transformations of public health strategies, involving human and nonhuman agencies, as colonial and postcolonial states in Asia combatted the spread of contagious diseases.
As a sociologist of public institutions, I am also interested in the making and implications of citizenship laws, migration policies and the regulation of personhood across social and historical contexts. To this end, I have conducted research on the nascent politicization of the gay community in Singapore and the development of migration policies in East and Southeast Asia.
Together with Professor Catherine Evans, I am also the co-coordinator of the Law and Society Association’s British Colonial Legalities Collaborative Research Network (CRN 15).
An updated version of my curriculum vitae is available here. I can be contacted at Lee7 [at] kenyon [dot] edu.