Trained by specialists on Southeast Asia who taught me that the region’s past could not be apprehended solely “from the deck of the ship,” I was encouraged to attend to the distinctiveness of local historical practices and mentalities, without losing sight of their regional connections and global parallels. They also impressed upon me the vital importance of grounded and situated knowledge that challenges predominant paradigms and categories of analysis derived from “Western” traditions. These
intellectual orientations have shaped my interest in the histories of colonialism, modernity, nationalism, and migration in Asia. I have a deep commitment to interdisciplinary, intersectional, and multi-lingual research and scholarship, and engage with area studies specialists as well as feminist, postcolonial, and decolonial scholars working outside a specialization in Asian studies and history. My research has been funded by several institutions including the National Endowment for the Humanities, Japan Foundation, Toyota Foundation, and Mellon Foundation.
My first book Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma (University of Hawai’i Press, 2011) examined colonial politics, gender and race relations, social reforms, anticolonialism, media, and consumerism in colonial Burma. My recently completed book, Interasian Intimacies Across Religion, Race, and Colonialism (under contract with Cornell University Press), is based on extensive research on sources in Burmese, Japanese, and English as well as oral and personal archives of one family whose life stories of migration, intermarriage, and conversion span across and beyond the histories of British and Japanese colonialism in Burma (present-day Myanmar). It elucidates a history that has been obscured by the all too familiar heterosexual coupling of the white male colonizer and the native female to reveal that interasian intimacies constituted the primary, and hitherto unrecognized, site for the articulation of modern understandings of religion, race, family, and nation that continue to vex many regions of Asia today.
I am currently at work on a new research project tentatively entitled “Restless Remains: Reburying and Redressing Empire, Migration, and War in Overseas Japanese Cemeteries.” Dozens of nihon jin bochi (Japanese cemeteries) dot the landscape of Southeast Asia, a region that Japan occupied during the Second World War. Based on oral history, photographic documentation, and archival research across Asia, I explore the history of Japanese diasporic and transnational subjects who have been retroactively claimed by the Japanese state and society as “Japanese nationals,” and the gendered, classed, and ethnic limits of mobility and belonging that have structured Japanese migration and imperialism in Southeast Asia as elsewhere. What lessons do the nihonjin bochi hold, I ask, for envisioning and enacting what Leo Ching terms “reconciliation otherwise”: practices of historical redress that refuse the geopolitics of patriarchal nation-states?
- 506:210: Sex and Power
- 508:250: Southeast Asia and the World
- 506:363: Imperialism
- 090:293: Intimate Matters: Sex & Marriage in Global Perspective (SAS Honors Seminar)
- 510:539: Colloquium in Women’s and Gender History
- 510:522: Comparative Colonialisms in Asia
- 510:549: Seminar in Women’s and Gender History
- “Belonging Across Religion, Race, and Nation in Burma-Myanmar,” in The Palgrave International Handbook of Mixed Racial and Ethnic Classification, edited by Zarine L. Rocha and Peter J. Aspinall (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020): 757–778.
- “Talking Sex, Making Love: P. Moe Nin and Intimate Modernity in Colonial Burma,” in Modern Times in Southeast Asia, 1920s–1970s, edited by Susie Protschky and Tom van den Berge (Leiden: Brill, 2018): 136–165.
- “Transcultural Intimacies in British Burma and the Straits Settlements: A History of Belonging, Difference, and Empire,” in Belonging Across the Bay of Bengal: Religious Rites, Colonial Migrations, National Rights, edited by Michael Laffan (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017): 117–138.
- “Masculinities in Asia: A Review Essay,” Asian Studies Review 38.2 (June 2014): 243-252.
- “Colonial Intimacies in Comparative Perspective: Intermarriage, law, and cultural difference in British Burma,” Special issue, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 14.1 (Spring 2013).
- “The Life and Writings of a Patriotic Feminist: Independent Daw San of Burma,” in Women in Southeast Asian Nationalist Movements, edited by Susan Blackburn and Helen Ting (National University of Singapore Press, 2013): 23-47.
- Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma (University of Hawai’i Press, 2011).
- “The Modern Burmese Woman and the Politics of Fashion in Colonial Burma,” Journal of Asian Studies 67.4 (2008): 1277 – 1308.
- “The ‘Traditional’ High Status of Women in Burma: A Historical Reconsideration,” Journal of Burma Studies 10 (2005/2006): 51 – 81.
FELLOWSHIPS, GRANTS AND AWARDS
- National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2020–2021
- Japan Studies Fellowship, Japan Foundation, 2019–2020
- GAIA Grant for Interdisciplinary Working Groups (Special Focus: Rethinking Regional and Area Studies), Center for Global Advancement and International Affairs, Rutgers University, 2016–2017
- Center for Southeast Asian Studies Fellowship for Visiting Research Scholar, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, 2015
- Teaching Excellence Award, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, National University of Singapore, 2011
- Special Subject Research Grant, Toyota Foundation, 2006–2008
- Lauriston Sharp Dissertation Prize, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 2006
- Mellon Dissertation Fellowship, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, 2003–2004
- International Fellowship, American Association of University Women, 2002–2003