Name: Chungjae Lee
Program, Year: Political Science Ph.D. ’21
Hometown: Changwon, South Korea
Undergraduate institution: Waseda University, Japan
Currently working as: Assistant Professor, Department of Military/Political Studies, Republic of Korea Air Force Academy

What made you decide to pursue a Ph.D. in political science – and why at UCI?

I came to UCI to work with the faculty in the political science department program. The political science faculty are extremely supportive and truly care about the graduate students. I have benefited greatly from their kindness.

I am particularly interested in democratic foundings and refoundings. I am also following the literature on the relationship between translation and nationalism.

My dissertation presents Minobe Tatsukichi (1873-1948) and Cho Soang (1887-1958) as two noteworthy political theorists for thinking through the issue of the temporality of founding. In contrast to a conventional framework of founding which legitimizes the constitution by postulating the pre-constitutional power of “the people,” Minobe and Cho each invents “the people” out of the constitution as a democratically empowered subject to-come.

What implications does your research have for society?

If my argument is correct, this means that democratic founding can be reconceptualized as an inverted process of inventing “the people” out of the constitution. In other words, the founding act is not authorized by the sovereign people posited to exist prior to the promulgation of the constitution but by “the people” to come in the future. Such an “inverted founding” – one in which a modern political subject unfurls from the constitution – thereby complicates the familiar logic of founding and attendant concepts of constituent power and democratic legitimation.

Where have you been published (current or pending)?

“Inverted Founding: Emperor Organ Theory, Constitutionalism, and Koku-min.” European Journal of Political Theory. (Online First, with Stacey Liou)
“Translational Nation: Politics and Re-presentation at the Independence Hall of Korea.” Positions: Asia Critique. (2022, with Jerry Won Lee)
“Show Me the Monolingualism: Korean Hip-Hop and the Discourse of Difference.” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. (2021, Jerry Won Lee)
“Learning and Unlearning “Democracy”: The Discourse of Western Learning in Colonial Korea (Under Review)

Any major grants or awards received while in pursuit of your graduate degree?

Seoul National University: The Kyujanggak Institute Research Grant 2018 and The Asia Center Visiting Scholar 2019-2020. University of California, Irvine: Fall Associate Dean’s Fellowship 2018; Departmental Summer Funding Award 2016-20; and Center for Asian Studies Research Grant 2016, 2018.

What challenges have you faced getting to where you are today?

Completing my dissertation on time in the midst of the pandemic was quite challenging. Throughout the process of writing, however, the dissertation committee members had always been generous with their time. Without their support and guidance, my dissertation could not have been completed.


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