Darren Wan

PhD Candidate


I am a social and legal historian of Southeast Asia. A central question animates my research: How can perspectives from the edges of state power help us rethink political events and concepts?

My dissertation examines how the reconstitution of the six differently administered British colonies in Island Southeast Asia into Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and the Australian Indian Ocean Territories was experienced in the everyday. Entitled Citizenship Claims and Bureaucratic Encounters: A Social History of Decolonization and the Cold War in British Southeast Asia, the project draws on archival research and oral history interviews conducted in Malay, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Tamil. It explores how working-class racial minorities, who were largely illiterate and poorly documented, articulated claims to belonging when borders were in constant flux, when itinerant people seemed increasingly out of place.

I am also invested in the public humanities. Since 2017, I have been an editor of Mynah, a Singapore-based longform non-profit magazine devoted to telling untold Singaporean stories.

Committee: Eric Tagliacozzo & Durba Ghosh (co-advisors), Natasha Raheja