Alex Jong-Seok Lee is a sociocultural anthropologist of South Korea. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology (with a minor in Asian AmericanÂ Studies) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and hisÂ B.A. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego.Â Situated at the intersection of Korean Studies, feminist theory, andÂ comparative and transnational ethnic studies, his research examinesÂ how changing conceptions of mobility and migration, labor, and theÂ â€śGlobalâ€ť inform current formations of class, gender and sexuality, andÂ race in South Korea. In particular, he studies the role of fantasy, temporality, and affect in informing broader understandings of laborÂ and social unrest precipitated by post-1997 Asian Financial CrisisÂ neoliberal structuring.
At Rice, Alex is working on his first book, which examines how globalÂ Korean identity is constructed along axes of class, gender andÂ sexuality, and race within the lived experiences of contemporaryÂ Korean (largely cisgender, feminine presenting, i.e., â€śfemaleâ€ť) flightÂ attendants. Methodologically, his research draws on 18 months ofÂ ethnographic and archival research, primarily in Seoul, South KoreaÂ and Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (but also less intensively inÂ Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Chicago, USA) among aspiring, current, andÂ former female and male Korean flight attendants. His scholarshipÂ explores how the affective and aspirational desires of this uniqueÂ labor migrant group embody and interrogate normative ideas ofÂ contemporary Koreannessâ€”chiefly, the latterâ€™s emphasis on (neo)liberalÂ values like individualism, self-development, and cosmopolitanism. ByÂ charting the lived experiences of this prestigious but precarious formÂ of Korean labor, his research provides new insights on the nature andÂ meaning of work, personhood, and belonging. This includes theÂ constitutive yet undertheorized role of fantasyâ€”imaginary, spatial,Â and affectiveâ€”within studies of class, mobility, and national identity.
In the spring of 2019, Alex will teach an undergraduate course,Â â€śIntroduction to Transnational Asian Studies.â€ť During his postdoctoralÂ fellowship, Alex also will work on three new projects. The firstÂ project is an ethnography of the Houston-based Korean AmericanÂ community regarding the Korean diaspora and reunification (under theÂ guidance of principal investigator, Dr. Sonia Ryang). The secondÂ project inspects the theoretical and practical implications ofÂ considering flight attendantsâ€™ feminized care practices as a form ofÂ commodified â€śsecurityâ€ť or the removal (se) of â€ścareâ€ť (cura). His thirdÂ project explores Korean imaginaries of racial, ethnic, and nationalÂ difference through the anthropological lens of kinship.
Alex has published in The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, asÂ well as a chapter in Rowman & Littlefieldâ€™s Anthropology of Tourism:Â Heritage, Mobility, and Society series. In addition to working as aÂ researcher, he has taught undergraduate courses on socioculturalÂ anthropology, biological anthropology, and Asian American Studies.Â Currently, he serves as Media Strategist for City & Society. His otherÂ academic and popular media publications can be found on his website:Â www.alexjslee.com.
Cosmopolitanism and Tourism: Rethinking Theory and Practice
Robert Shepherd (editor)