University of Wisconsin–Madison

Shelly Chan

Associate Professor of History


Office: 4111 Mosse Humanities
Mailbox: 4015 Mosse Humanities
Office Hours: Fridays 12:00-1:00


I am a historian of modern and global China with a broad interest in the circulation of people, ideas, and things across Asia. My recent book, Diaspora’s Homeland: Modern China in the Age of Global Migration (Duke 2018), is a transnational study of how the mass emigration of more than twenty million Chinese transformed China’s politics, economics, and culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

My current research explores the origins and fate of Nanyang (the “South Seas”)—how a maritime region of Chinese migrant circulations between coastal China and Southeast Asia emerged and declined in the twentieth century. Tracing a networked history of Chinese identity and power, the project brings together East and Southeast Asian history, economic and cultural change, as well as urban development and diasporas.

Additionally, I am the Director of the Center for East Asian Studies, a Title VI National Resource Center funded by the U.S. Department of Education, 2018-22. I am also the faculty lead for the research cluster, “Rethinking East Asia and the World: Politics, Education, and Society,” sponsored by the Office of the Provost to enhance UW expertise on contemporary East Asia.

Before coming to UW, 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

  • The Case for Diaspora: A Temporal Approach to the Chinese Experience.” The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 74, No. 1 (February) 2015: 107-128.
  • “The Disobedient Diaspora: Overseas Chinese Students in Mao’s China, 1958-66.” Journal of Chinese Overseas Vol. 10, No. 2 (2014): 220-238.
  • 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.
  • “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, 2017, 2018.
  • 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