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Dr Rachel Leow

Dr Rachel Leow

University Lecturer in Modern East Asian History

Subject groups/Research projects

World History:

Research Interests

Dr Rachel Leow's research is broadly concerned with the social, cultural and intellectual links between China and Chinese communities in maritime Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia and Singapore; with British imperialism in Asia; and with histories of ideas beyond Europe. Her work strives to be sensitive to the complex transformations of ideas and identities in motion. Her earliest research sought to understand the mutations and idiosyncrasies of Chinese practices of female domestic servitude in their Southeast Asian contexts. She is the author of Taming Babel: Language in the making of Malaya, which addresses the construction and disciplining of Chineseness and Malayness across the colonial and postcolonial transition. 

Dr Leow joined the Cambridge History Faculty in October 2013. She completed a PhD in History at St Catharine's College, Cambridge in 2011 and a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University between 2011-2013. 

Modern East and Southeast Asian history; inter-Asian connections; Cold War in Asia; Briitsh empire in Asia; world history

Research Supervision

Dr Leow welcomes inquiries from prospective graduate students interested in aspects of modern East and Southeast Asia. She especially welcomes students who are proposing innovative, global approaches to the study of China in the world: work which interrogates or challenges the territorial, regional and disciplinary formations of China as nation-state, and seeks instead to understand how China interacted with the rest of the world, whether through diaspora and inter-Asian mobilities, through the exchange of ideas and cultural practices, through the peregrinations of texts, objects, capital and culture, and other approaches to the study of modern Asia. 


Dr Leow teaches on Part I Papers 21, 'Empires and world history from the fifteenth century to the First World War', and 23 'World history since 1914'. She is also pleased to supervise undergraduate dissertations on any aspect of East and Southeast Asian history. In 2015 she will teach a course entitled 'Global China' on the inaugural MPhil in World History.

Other Professional Activities

Dr Rachel Leow is an associate of the Joint Centers for History and Economics at Harvard and Cambridge.

Key Publications

Book manuscript

Taming Babel: Language in the Making of Malaysia (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

Articles & Chapters
for a list of all writing see 

'Rethinking Chinese Communism in the Malayan Emergency' (under review)

'Healing the Nation: Politics, Medicine and Analogies of Health in Southeast Asia' in Amrith & Harper eds. Histories of Health in Southeast Asia (2014)

'Age as a Category of Gender Analysis: Servant Girls, Modern Girls, and Gender in Southeast Asia', JAS, Vol. 71 No. 4 (November 2012)

'Do you own non-Chinese mui tsai? Re-examining Race and Female Servitude in Malaya and Hong Kong', Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 46 No. 2 (November 2012)