Dr Su Lin Lewis

BA(Comb. Hons), MA(Lond.), PhD(Cantab.)

  • BS8 1TB

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Personal profile

Research interests

Office: 1.2, 26/27 St. Michael's Park

Phone: +44 (0)117 928 7912

Email: sulin.lewis@bristol.ac.uk

Twitter: @sulinlewis

I specialise in global and transnational history in the twentieth century, with a thematic focus on urban history, civil society, gender, cosmopolitanism, internationalism, decolonisation, development, and migration, from the late colonial era to the Cold War. My geographical focus is mainly Southeast Asia (especially Burma, Malaysia, and Indonesia), along with an ever-increasing interest in port-cities of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Rim. 

My first monograph, Cities in Motion: urban life and cosmopolitanism in Southeast Asia 1920-1940 (2016) won the Urban History Association Prize for Best Book (Non-North America, 2015-2016). It sought to move away from nation-based histories of Southeast Asia to explore the role of the city, and especially the modern woman, through intersecting themes of urban space, cross-cultural sociability, education, the press, and popular culture in late colonial Penang, Rangoon, and Bangkok.

I co-lead a collaborative research network, which was funded by the AHRC, around the social history of post-colonial solidarity. Moving away from diplomatic histories of the post-colonial era, we examine the transnational movements of activists (including trade unions and women's groups), literati, and artists in the 1950s across Asia and Africa. See http://afroasiannetworks.com/  The project pionerred an innovative collaborative research methodology that encouraged scholarly collaboration from the point of archival inquiry to the writing-up process.

My contribution to the network focuses on the transnational networks that emerged out of the Asian Socialist Conference. I am currently working transnational histories of socialist internationalism and the emergence of a development technocracy in the Global South.

I am also interested in the role of African-Americans in Cold War Asia; I have just completed a paper on A. Philip Randolph's journey to early Cold War Burma and Japan.  My broader research interests involve the international dimensions behind the growth of civil society in Burma, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

I am a member of the editorial board of Past and Present and on the Board of Directors of the Global Urban History project.


I completed my PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2010 under Professor Tim Harper, working on Asian urbanites and cosmopolitan port-cities. I was a Past and Present post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Historical Research in London in 2010/11. In summer 2011, I participated in the month-long Sixth International Seminar on Decolonization hosted by the National History Center in Washington D.C. I then moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where I was Mellon post-doctoral fellow in the Department of South and Southeast Asian studies. Before arriving at Bristol in September 2014, I was Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Birmingham from 2013-2014. 

Before embarking on my MA and PhD, I also worked on and managed community-driven development projects for the World Bank and International Organization for Migration in Indonesia, where I developed an interest in the history of local civil society organizations and grassroots social movements in Southeast Asia. 

Research Supervision

I would be interested in supervising students who wish to work on any topic relating to my research interests.  I also welcome proposals relating to global/transnational connections in Asia and the political, social, intellectual, and cultural history of Southeast Asia between 1880 and the present.  I am currently co-supervising, with Robert Bickers, PhD students working on: the history of Britishness and Asian communities in colonial Hong Kong; Macanese communities in Hong Kong; emergence of the suit in post-war Hong Kong; Chinese students in 1920s Paris, and post-war rehabilitation and humanitarianism in China. I am also the lead supervisor, with Robert Skinner, of a thesis examining Indonesian participation in Afro-Asian networks of solidarity.


I have taught undergraduate courses on Colonial Radicals, Modern Girls and New Women, Decolonization, Global Cities, and the History of Modern Southeast Asia. I am currently teaching on team-taught courses on Decolonization and Global History, and on a MA Course in Themes in the History of Colonialism.  I am offering a second-year Special Field course, co-taught with Dr Michael Sugarman, on Global Development.


Structured keywords and research groupings

  • Decolonisation
  • Migration Mobilities Bristol
  • Urban Research Cluster
  • Centre for Black Humanities
  • Centre for Environmental Humanities


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