I grew up in New York City, a child of immigrants from South Korea. I attended Harvard University and received a BA in History and Literature, focusing on African-American cultural history. I travelled to South Africa for the first time in 1995, a year after apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela became President. Through living in the country in that seminal period, I experienced first-hand the importance, and vibrancy, of the project of history in South Africa. It’s been an ongoing relationship with the country, its people and its history ever since. My newfound intellectual interests in South African history led to postgraduate studies at Oxford, where I received MPhil and DPhil degrees in Economic and Social History. After posts as visiting lecturer at the University of Cape Town and adjunct assistant professor at the City University of New York (Queens College), I joined the History department at Goldsmiths, University of London, where I became Senior Lecturer. I joined Corpus in January 2022 as Associate Professor in African Studies. I am currently a Council member of the Royal Historical Society and Editor of the Journal of Southern African Studies.
Research and Teaching
My research concerns the social and cultural history of modern South Africa, and latterly more broadly the history of health and medicine in sub-Saharan Africa. Interdisciplinarity is a core pre-occupation and intellectual orientation – my research explores the productive interface of history with other disciplinary traditions, including anthropology, urban studies, development studies, geography and public health.
My first book, African Women and Apartheid: Migration and Settlement in Urban South Africa, is an ethnographic history of African women in apartheid and post-apartheid Cape Town. It examines the ways in which migrant women engaged with the settlement process, through a close reading of the lives and oral testimonies of three generations of African women. My recently published book, Health, Healing and Illness in African History is an introduction to the fascinating and wide-ranging history of health and healing in Africa, from the pre-colonial period to the present day. I am completing my third book, Death and Memory in Modern South Africa, which is a culmination of 15 years of research on the changing meaning and management of death in transitional and post-apartheid South Africa. I am also undertaking a new research project, on road safety and road danger in Africa.
I contribute to the teaching and delivery of the MSc in African Studies. I am also interested in decolonising approaches to history and in promoting race equality, diversity and inclusion in higher education. At Corpus I look forward to providing pastoral support to a diverse and wide constituency of students, including BME and international students.
Health, Healing and Illness in African History (London: Bloomsbury, 2021)
Mark Lamont and Rebekah Lee, ‘Arrive Alive: Road safety in Kenya and South Africa’, Technology and Culture Special Issue on global road safety in history, Mike Esbester and Jameson Wetmore (eds), vol. 56 (2015)
‘Death in slow motion: Funerals, ritual practice and road danger in South Africa’, African Studies Special Issue on death and loss in Africa, vol. 71, no. 2 (2012)
‘Death “on the move”: Funerals, entrepreneurs and the rural-urban nexus in South Africa’, Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute, vol. 81, no. 2 (2011)
African Women and Apartheid: Migration and Settlement in Urban South Africa (London: I.B. Tauris, 2009)