Matthew Lauer’s research focuses on social history and local history from Korea’s Chosŏn Period. His work consists primarily of close analysis of judicial and administrative records from that era. When analyzing these documents, he draws broadly from anthropological, sociological, and cultural methodologies to tease out insights into everyday life within the Chosŏn village. He is particularly interested in the practical realities of the lives of slaves and their position within the late-Chosŏn legal system. For his dissertation, he analyzed the administrative records of a magistrate from Namwŏn during the 1730s. The dissertation involves two main lines of inquiry. First, through close readings of the local documents, he reinterprets the nature of some of the core configurations of Chosŏn society, including the relationship between the state’s ritual and legal codes, the position of slaves in the legal system, the limits on extraction within the state corvée system, and processes of negotiation between magistrates.
Second, on the basis of those close readings, he develops a systematic model of magistrate power in the late Chosŏn. Matthew Lauer received his Bachelor’s Degree in International and Area Studies (East Asia Focus) from Washington University in St. Louis, his Master’s Degree in East Asian Languages and Literatures (Korean) from the University of Hawai’i at Manōa, and his Ph.D. in Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a native of Washington, D.C. and has been very fortunate to live extensively across the United States and South Korea, especially Sŏul and Chŏnju.