I study the relationships between culture, law, politics and race through the building of colonial states in the modern British Empire. To do so, my research identifies the causes and consequences of the reconstitution of Jamaica and the Straits Settlements (Penang, Malacca and Singapore) as Crown Colonies in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. Because both colonies adopted Crown Colony government during the consolidation of reforms to colonial government – reforms that established the Crown’s absolute control over colonial laws, they provide strategic lenses for us to understand the social origins and legacies of the shift to “direct rule” in a changing British Empire.
As a historical sociologist of public institutions, I am also interested in the making and implications of citizenship laws, labor 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 labor migration policies in East and Southeast Asia.
Together with 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 may be found here. I can be contacted at Jack.Jin.Lee [at] oberlin [dot] edu.