Jun Wei Lee is a sophomore from Singapore studying history and philosophy with minors in poverty studies and philosophy, politics, and economics. He is interested in the intellectual and labor history of the British Empire as well as the history of economic thought. Lee’s current research focuses on the ways that the British Empire managed migrant labor systems in colonial Southeast Asia as an avenue to explore how ideas of “freedom” have been constructed and contested in economies. For ISP, Lee will be working with Professor Paul Ocobock, an associate professor of history, on two of his book projects. The first project focuses on the economic history of coffee in Kenya; Lee will be conducting archival research on Kenyan governmental records and utilizing ArcGIS to plot visual representations of Kenyan coffee farms throughout the 20th century. The second project takes a broader geographical perspective and focuses on how the British Empire managed “undesirable” white settlers that had failed in the project of settler colonialism. Lee will be conducting literature reviews for this project as well as using digital humanities tools to map out the migration patterns of white settlers across the globe.
The recipient of a 2023 Summer Research Grant from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the 2023 Barrett Prize for Best Undergraduate Research Proposal, Lee spent three weeks in London conducting archival research at the British Library and the British National Archives for his project: ‘Free’ and ‘Unfree’: Metropolitan Debates about Indian Indentured Labor and Migration in the British Empire. This project exposed Lee to the intricacies of history archival research and provided promising research avenues that he will continue to pursue as part of his research for his Glynn Family Honors Program senior thesis. For the 2023-24 academic year, Lee is also an Ethics Research Fellow for the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Studies, a research program that provides training for 10 undergraduate sophomores to conduct research for the common good.