Shelly Chan

I am a historian of modern and global China with a broad interest in people, ideas, and things in motion. My research focuses on Chinese emigration and diaspora in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, their effects on Chinese society and culture, and their contributions to the making of China in the modern world. I teach courses on China from the earliest times to the present and on the history of Chinese and Asian diasporas.

My current book project, Diaspora’s Homeland: Modern China in the Age of Global Migration, explores how the mass emigration of more than twenty million Chinese helped create modern China by influencing notions of sovereignty and nationalism, world history and geography, culture and identity, family and marriage, and socialism and capitalism. I do that by studying China’s encounters with emigrant indentured laborers to Latin America and the Caribbean, Japanese studies of the overseas Chinese, returned colonial intellectuals from Southeast Asia, domestic women who were married to overseas men, and refugees arriving in 1950s China. I treat “diaspora” as a dynamic series of moments, rather than a fixed set of communities, which has recurred because of tensions between emigrant pasts and national History.

Before coming to UW-Madison, I was Assistant Professor of Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Victoria in 2009-2011.


  • PhD - University of California-Santa Cruz
  • MA - University of California-Santa Cruz
  • MA - University of British Columbia
  • BA - University of British Columbia 

Selected Publications:

  • “The Case for Diaspora: A Temporal Approach to the Chinese Experience.” The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 74, No. 1 (February) 2015: 107-128.  View Article (pdf)
  • “The Disobedient Diaspora: Overseas Chinese Students in Mao’s China, 1958-66.” Journal of Chinese Overseas Vol. 10, No. 2 (2014): 220-238.  View Article (pdf)
  • Book Review. China’s Left-Behind Wives: Families of Migrants from Fujian to Southeast Asia, 1930s-1950s by Shen Huifen. The International Journal of Chinese Diasporic Studies, Vol. 5, No. 1 (June 2013), 99-101.
  • “Rethinking the ‘Left-Behind’ in Chinese Migrations: A Case of Liberating Wives in Emigrant South China in the 1950s.” In Proletarian and Gendered Mass Migrations: A Global Perspective on Continuities and Discontinuities from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-first Centuries. Dirk Hoerder and Amarjit Kaur, eds. Leiden and Boston: Brill Publishers, 2013.  View Article (pdf) 
  • “A Maidservant of the Revolution: He Xiangning and Chinese Feminist Nationalism in the 1920s-1930s.” Occasional Paper 185 (May 2007), Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
  • “Breaking the Silence. Review of E. G. Perrault, Tong: The Story of Tong Louie, Vancouver’s Quiet Titan.” BC Studies 144 (December 1, 2004): 141-142.
  • “The Myriad Life of a Community: Chinese Organizations in Vancouver.” Discussion Paper, Chinese Migration Series, Diana Lary ed., Centre for Chinese Research, University of British Columbia, Jan. 2003.

Selected Awards:

  • Resident Fellowship, The UW Institute for Research in the Humanities, Fall 2014.
  • Junior Scholar Grant, The Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, 2014-2015.
  • Faculty Internal Research Grant, University of Victoria, 2010, 2011.
  • Dissertation Writing Fellowship, History Department, UC-Santa Cruz, 2008.
  • Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, Institute for Humanities Research, UC-Santa Cruz, 2007.
  • Doctoral Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 2006.
  • Dissertation Research Grant, University of California Pacific Rim Research Program, 2005.
  • Humanities Global Outreach Fellowship, UC-Santa Cruz, 2003-2005.

Advisor To:

  • Galen Poor

History Courses:

Shelly Chan

Assistant Professor


4120 Mosse Humanities

4015 Mosse Humanities

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