Shelly Chan
  • Pronouns she, her, her, hers, herself
  • Title
    • Associate Professor
  • Division Humanities Division
  • Department
    • History Department
  • Phone
    (831) 459-2304
  • Email
  • Office Location
    • Humanities Building 1, 541
  • Office Hours Fall 2022: Friday 10-12 in 541 or via zoom. Email for link.
  • Mail Stop History Department
  • Mailing Address
    • 1156 High Street
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise China, Globalization, World History, Cultural Studies, Asian Studies
  • Courses HIS 80C: Global China, HIS 140D: Recent Chinese History
  • Advisees, Grad Students, Researchers Joshua Tan, Anna Gricuk

Summary of Expertise

Modern China; transnational, transregional, and global history; social and cultural history; diaspora, postcolonial, cultural, and gender studies.

Research Interests

Maritime southeastern China and Southeast Asia from the 18th to 20th centuries; history of Chinese migration and diaspora.

Biography, Education and Training

I am a historian of modern China and the Chinese diaspora. My broader interests include nationalism, colonialism, globalization, regionalism, women, and gender.  I am a proud alumna of the UCSC History graduate program, having received a Ph.D. here in 2009. Before my return, I taught at the University of Victoria from 2009 to 2011 and at the University of Wisconsin-Madsion from 2011 to 2020.


I am an appointed member of The American Historical Review's Board of Editors, focusing on East Asia and the Pacific World. Additionally, I serve on the American Historical Association's 2023 Annual Meeting Program Committee.


My recent book, Diaspora’s Homeland: Modern China in the Age of Global Migration (Duke University Press, 2018), examines how Chinese mass emigration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries changed China. It also proposes the reconceptualization of diaspora as moments, rather than simply as communities. Diaspora's Homeland was shortlisted for the 2019 International Convention for Asia Scholars (ICAS) Humanities Book Prize.


Building on this study, I am broadening my search for transnational and transregional frameworks to explain Chinese politics, society, and culture. My new research looks at the rise and disappearance of Nanyang the “South Seas,” a maritime borderland spanning China and Southeast Asia from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. 


I received my Ph.D. from UCSC and my BA and MA degrees from the University of British Columbia. Before returning to UCSC, I was Assistant Professor and later Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2011-20), as well as Director of its Title VI-funded Center for East Asian Studies (2018). Prior to that, I was Assistant Professor of Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Victoria, Canada (2009-11).


Prospective graduate students who would like to work on any transnational and transregional aspect of modern Chinese history, and/or with a broad interest in South China, are encouraged to contact me via email.


Honors, Awards and Grants

Principal Investigator, Transnational China Research Hub, seed grant awarded by UCSC Office of Research, 2022-23.

Shortlist for the International Convention for Asia Scholars (ICAS) Humanities Book Prize, 2019.

Visiting Senior Research Fellowship, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, 2019.

Project Director, Title VI National Resource Center and FLAS Fellowships, Center for East Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2018.

Selected Publications

  1. Diaspora’s Homeland: Modern China in the Age of Global Migration. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, March 2018.
  2. “The Case for Diaspora: A Temporal Approach to the Chinese Experience.” The Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 74, No. 1 (February) 2015: 107-128.
  3. “The Disobedient Diaspora: Overseas Chinese Students in Mao’s China, 1958-1966.” The Journal of Chinese Overseas Vol. 10, No. 2 (November) 2014: 220-238.
  4. “Rethinking the ‘Left-Behind’: A Case of Liberating Wives in Emigrant South China in the 1950s.” In Proletarian and Mass Migrations: A Global Perspective on Continuities and Discontinuities in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Dirk Hoerder and Amarjit Kaur, eds. Studies in Global Social History, Marcel van der Linden, series ed., Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2013.


Teaching Interests

Social and cultural history of China; China in transnational and global history; migration, diaspora, gender, and women.