University of Wisconsin–Madison

Shelly Chan

Associate Professor of History


Office: 4120 Mosse Humanities
Mailbox: 4015 Mosse Humanities
Office Hours: TBA


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

My forthcoming book, Diaspora’s Homeland: Modern China in the Age of Global Migration (Duke University Press), is a broad historical study of how the mass migration of more than twenty million Chinese overseas transformed China’s politics, economics, and culture in a global system. Instead of treating “diaspora” as a collection of communities, I reconceptualize it as a series of “moments”—a recurrence of tensions between migrant and national histories.

Building on the above, my new research explores the origins and fate of Nanyang (the “South Seas”), a Chinese diasporic cultural economy linking coastal East and Southeast Asia from 1920 to 1965. Tracing a networked history of Chinese identity and power through major port cities in the region, my project would bring together the seldom connected fields of East and Southeast Asian history, economic and cultural history, urban and diaspora studies in a maritime framework.

I am currently serving as the director of the Center for East Asian Studies at UW-Madison. Before coming here, I was Assistant Professor of Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Victoria in 2009-2011.


Ph.D., University of California-Santa Cruz
M.A., University of California-Santa Cruz
M.A., University of British Columbia
B.A., University of British Columbia

Selected Publications

  • Diaspora’s Homeland: Modern China in the Age of Global Migration (forthcoming, March 2018, Duke University Press
  • “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

  • Honored Instructor Award, University Housing, 2015, 2016.
  • 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

History Courses