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Jonghee Lee-Caldararo

Research Interests:
everyday geographies
Urban Geographies
Political Geographies
Social Theory
Night Studies
Asian Studies
critical pedagogy
precarity and care

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Geography, University of Kentucky, 2017 -­ present.

M.A. Geography, Department of Social Studies Education, Ewha Womans University, 2010-2013.

B.A. Majors: Geography Education; and Social Studies Education. Minor: American Studies Department Social Studies, Ewha Womans University, 2005-2010.


Since my undergraduate program in Korea, I have cultivated an ability to synthesize and apply different perspectives of philosophy, economics, and cultural studies as well as geography. Such an interdisciplinary perspective and approach has helped me to distance myself from what is personally or/and socially taken for granted; and it helped me to discover my vocation to study and teach multiplicities of phenomena, (human) subjects, and places as well as ongoing entanglement of them.  

My master’s thesis project analyzed the cultural, political, and economic processes that shaped the place of Mongolian migrants in Seoul. I explored how Mongolian town had produced a new transnational identity by connecting different spaces from ‘home’ to ‘Mongol town’ and its nearby supportive surroundings in Seoul. In so doing, the research ultimately troubled the media's representation of ‘Mongol-town’ and other migrants’ spaces as though they exist as a segregated place to maintain a certain ethnic group's own national identy.

Similarly, the current dissertation project began by critically reflecting on another set of taken-for-granted spaces (namely cafés in Seoul). I have sought to answer why Starbucks-like brand cafés had become widespread in many contemporary cities, why some of them had extended their operation hours and eventually open for 24/7 in Seoul, what are the implications of this phenomenon on urban public space and policy, and how the presence of 24hr cafes and nighttime consumption could be situated in the Korean specific contexts which encompass issues of long-hours working culture, education, and spatial constraints/housing issue.

My desire to offer a multi-dimensional geographic understanding of everyday spaces has been acknowledged by a number of grants. I received the Graduate Research Scholarship from KOSAF (한국장학재단) to undertake my thesis;The Dissertation Enhancement Award and the Barnhardt Withington Award at the University of Kentucky as well as Korean Foundation Fellowship have funded my dissertation project. 

In addition to the vocation to be an reseracher who cares about our everyday lives and spaces, I would also emphasize my role as an acadmemic service provider. With the bachelor's degree in Education of Geography and Social Studies (double majors), I have developed ways to promote a better learning experience. Teaching Assistantship that I have received from the UK since 2013 has enabled me to apply lessons from prior experiences to university students in the U.S. As the primary instructor of a course entitled ‘Geography of East Asia,’ and as a Teaching Assistant of economic, health, and cultural geography classes, I have sought to make geography relevant to students’ real life and share the pleasure of learning and academic conversation. 

Since I was a child, I have dreamed to be a person who can inspire others as well as society to facilitate meaningful change. I hope my resarch and teaching emphasis on everyday space and multiplicities of our lives/knowledge could help people to learn about themselves and their neighbors, to build a more sustainable relationship to our globe, and to understand why geography matters as a discipline and a practice of life.