Kevin Lujan Lee
Kevin Lujan Lee (familian Capili, taotao Barrigada) is a Chamoru PhD candidate in urban planning and sociology. Broadly interested in labor and community organizing in comparative and global perspective, he empirically studies (1) the role of community-based organizations in US workforce development planning; (2) low-wage Pacific Islander labor and community organizing in the US and Aotearoa/NZ; and (3) the Indigenous politics of decolonization across Oceania. For his research, he has received a Fulbright fellowship and the 2022 Award for Best Paper in Asian Pacific American Politics from the Western Political Science Association. For his teaching, he was awarded an MIT Graduate Student Council Teaching Award.
In alignment with the economic justice movement, he studies the diverse experimental roles that worker centers play in labor market regulation in the continental United States. Much research on worker centers have focused on their role as "alt-labor" actors using community organizing and policy advocacy strategies to organize working-class communities, co-enforce labor laws, raise labor standards in low-wage industries and pass progressive policies at multiple jurisdictional scales. However, researchers have not focused on the myriad other strategies that worker centers use to advance economic justice––such as human service provision, workforce development, microentrepreneurship (through establishing worker co-operatives) etc. In collaboration with colleagues at the UCLA Labor Center, he is currently examining how the role of service provision both strengthens and extends the influence that worker centers wield over low-wage labor markets.
In alignment with the global LANDBACK movement, he studies the politics of decolonization across the Pacific Islands. He co-led the 2021 Guåhan Survey - the largest-scale survey of Chamorus in Guåhan (with more than 1,100 respondents) about their preferences for our island's political future. In collaboration with Josh Campbell, a political theorist at UCLA, he uses historical and discursive methods to study Indigenous Oceanic political thought (particularly the works of Epeli Hau'ofa, Haunani-Kay Trask and Teresia Teaiwa), elevating their lessons for political theory and planning practice.
He is also a member of the Scholars Strategy Network, Student Research Affiliate with MIT CoLab, and actively collaborates with community-based organizations in both LA and across Oceania (especially in Guåhan and Hawai'i). Past and current collaborators include the UCLA Labor Center, California Immigrant Policy Center and Faith Action Hawai'i. Prior to MIT, Kevin worked as a food policy advocate, an undocumented youth organizer, a program assistant at a local mosque––among others.
Kevin holds a B.A. in Philosophy and the Study of Religion from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an interdisciplinary M.A. from the University of Chicago.