Alex Jong-Seok Lee

WEBSITE(S)| | Curriculum Vitae

Alex Jong-Seok Lee is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research is situated at the interction of labor migration studies, gender and feminist studies, and comparative ethnic studies. His scholarship explores how shifting modes of mobility (economic, spatial, and affective) inform the political and ethical stakes behind late capitalist personhood.

Based on ethnographic and archival research on aspiring, current, and former Korean flight attendants, his research asks how these unique laborers negotiate their contingent status as lowly care-cum-security laboring migrants, on the one hand, and ostensibly glamorous, globetrotting elites, on the other. Focusing on this tension, his research asks: how might representations of pain and pleasure among flight attendants complicate extant literature on precarity precipitated by neoliberal restructuring? Addressing this question analyzes the undertheorized role of affect, imagination, and fantasy among class-marginalized, gendered, and sexualized subjects within labor mobility studies. Likewise, in exemplifying glamorous, award-winning service, Korean flight attendants rehabilitate South Korea’s earlier provincial image while also reconstituting the historical role of female laborers as burden bearers and caretakers of the state.

At Rice, Alex will expand his research into the anthropology of hospitality, technology, and time. His new research project investigates how shifting techniques and temporalities of travel affect aging communities within globalizing South Korea. Additionally, he will co-teach ASIA 295 Introduction to Transnational Asian Studies (the introductory course for the Asian Studies major) with Professor Sonia Ryang. Together, they are conducting an ethnographic project on Houston-based Korean Americans’ views on potential reunification of the two Koreas.

Alex has published articles in The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology and Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies (forthcoming) as well as a chapter in Rowman & Littlefield’s Anthropology of Tourism: Heritage, Mobility, and Society series. He serves as Media Strategist for City & Society, and his other publications can be found on his website:


Cosmopolitanism and Tourism: Rethinking Theory and Practice
Robert Shepherd (editor)