Anh Sy Huy Le

Year in Program: 6

Fields: East Asian History: Modern Vietnam and Modern China, the Indian Ocean in World History, Migration History (Ph.D. Examinations Passed with Distinction in all fields).

Advisor: Charles Keith

Committee: Aminda Smith, Laura Fair, Lewis Siegelbaum, Haydon L. Cherry

Research Languages: Vietnamese (Native), Chinese (Reading and Speaking), French (Reading)

Educational Background: B.A Economics & Chinese Studies, Wabash College, 2013. MA History, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, 2015.


I am a Ph.D. Candidate in Modern East Asian History at MSU with particular emphasis on the urban, social, and economic history of colonial Vietnam and Sino-Vietnamese interactions. I have long been fascinated by the interlinked dynamics and tension between migration, colonial capitalism, and urbanization. My historical approach is informed by theories and debates in transnationalism, urban and colonial studies, global capitalism, and cosmopolitanism.

My dissertation, “Taming the Intractable”: Chinese Migrants, Inter-Asian Interactions, and the Transformation of French Rule in Colonial Vietnam, 1862-1954, is the first comprehensive history of Chinese migration to southern Vietnam that explores the social and political roles of the Chinese community in the colonial-era transformation of Saigon-Cholon into a global port city and the center of French colonial capitalism in Asia. It argues that Chinese trans-local economic and political networks defined the landscape of colonial politics and inter-ethnic relations as French colonists reckoned with not only Saigon-Cholon’s rapid transformation into an urban center of global capitalism but also uncurbed Chinese mobility across an extensive inter-imperial space. Drawing on multi-sited archival research in Vietnam, Singapore, and China, my dissertation utilizes an inter-Asian approach to develop a pluralistic conception of the colonial encounter that recasts urban Saigon-Cholon as a contested imperial space defined by trans-colonial practices, Chinese diasporic networks, and inter-ethnic interactions.

My interest in the interactions between Chinese migratory networks and connections with the operations of different colonial regimes has led to a trans-imperial approach in archival reading. For this, I was recently appointed a Lee Kong Chian Research Fellow, which will provide a 6-month in-residence research starting in January 2020 in the Southeast Asian Collection and Straits Settlement Archive in the National Library of Singapore.

Previously, from September 2018 to August 2019, I conducted fieldwork in Vietnam, Singapore, and China with the support of the Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF) administered by the Social Science Research Council and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In summer 2018, I was a visiting research fellow at the Asia Research Institute (ARI) of the National University of Singapore. Pre-dissertation research at an earlier stage was funded by the American Council of Learned Societies/Henry Luce Foundation for China Studies, MSU International Studies Center, the Asian Studies Center, the College of Social Sciences, and the Department of History.

For a few years, I had served as an active member of the organizational committee of the Migration Without Boundaries Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference on Migration at MSU–an academic initiative promoting new research in historical and contemporary global migrations. The conference can be found on twitter @MSU_Migration

Departmental Activities: Vice President, Graduate History Association, 2016-2017; PR and Keynote Speaker Committee, Migration Without Boundaries Conference, 2015-2017.

Grants, Honors, and Awards: 

  • Lee Kong Chian Research Fellowship, National Library of Singapore (NLB).
  • Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF), Social Science Research Council and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
  • Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant for Research in European, African, or Asian History, American Historical Association
  • Henry Luce Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies Program in China Studies Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship
  • Walker Hill Pre-Dissertation International Research Fellowship, International Studies Center, Michigan State University

(For a full list of honors and awards, please refer to my curriculum vitae)


  • “State of the Field, The Studies of Chinese Diasporas in Colonial Southeast Asia: Theories, Concepts, and Histories,” China and Asia: A Journal in Historical Studies, Forthcoming early 2020.
  • “The ‘Orientals’ Strike Back: Displacement, Diasporic Resistance, and Spatial Justice in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire,” Journal of Migration History 4(2018): Special Issue: Cities and Overseas Migration in the Long Nineteenth Century, 134-160.
  • Review of Micheline Lessard, Human Trafficking in Colonial Vietnam, New York: Routledge, 2015, Journal of Vietnamese Studies, Vol. 12, Issue 4, 106-110, 2017

Social Media: twitter,, researchgate

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