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no photo Nayan Shah
Department of History
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive MC 0104
La Jolla , California , 92093-0104
(858) 822-2544
H&SS Room: 6086B

Professor Shah’s research and teaching investigates the paradoxes of democracy and inequality in the 19th and 20th century United States and Canada.  He approaches the history of western North America in the 19th and 20th centuries as a place where ethnic, national, gender and sexual identities, communities and practices are forged and recreated through the forces of capitalist political economy, competing state formations and the cultural and social transformations of migration. He explores the waves of Asian migrations along the Pacific Coast of North America and the U.S.-Mexican border region. 

His books and articles examine the contests over state power and citizenship in public health, law, and social welfare from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century in the United States and Canada. His works focuses on the dynamics of racialization and the perpetuation and reproduction of inequity in the distribution of resources, wealth, entitlements and state protection. His research has contributed new methods and interpretations of how racialization is constituted and perpetuated in political, cultural and state arenas by divergent conceptualizations of gender  sexuality and domesticity, which have justified the disparate allocation of resources and protections.

Affiliated Faculty with the Ethnic Studies Department and the Critical Gender Studies Program

Editorial Projects

Editor, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (Duke University Press, 2011-

Associate Editor, Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered History in America, (Gale Charles Scribners' Sons, 2004)

Guest Editor, "Voyeurism," Felix: Journal of Video and Digital Arts, volume 2, number 2 (2000)

Research Articles 

  • “Intimate Dependency, Race and Trans-Imperial Migration” The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in an Age of U.S. Power Edited by Vivek Bald, Miabi Chatterji, Sujani Reddy, Manu Vimalassery (NYU Press, forthcoming 2012)
  • “Public Health and the Mapping of Chinatown” Asian American Studies Now ed. Jean Yu-Wen Shen Wu and Thomas Chen (Rutgers University Press, 2010)
  • "Between 'Oriental Depravity' and 'Natural Degenerates': Spatial Borderlands and the Making of Ordinary Americans" in American Quarterly, 57, no 3 (2005) pp. 703-725.
  • * Reprinted in Mary L. Dudziak and Leti Volpp (eds.)  Legal Borderlands: Law and the Construction of American Borders (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), pp. 111-134.
  • *Revised and republished in American Studies:  An Anthology ed. by Janice Radway, Kevin Gaines, Barry Shank, Penny Von Eshen (Wiley Blackwell, 2009), pp. 346-357
  • "Policing Privacy, Migrants and the Limits of Freedom" Social Text 84-85 Vol. 23, Nos. 3-4, (Fall-Winter 2005), pp. 275-284.
  • "Adjudicating Intimacies in U.S. Frontiers," in Ann Laura Stoler (ed), Haunted By Empire: Race and Colonial Intimacies in North American History (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006).
  • "Perversity, Contamination and the Dangers of Queer Domesticity," in Robert J. Corber and Stephen Valocchi (eds.) Queer Studies: An Interdisciplinary Reader, (Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), pp. 121-141.
  • "Cleansing Motherhood: Hygiene and the Culture of Domesticity in San Francisco's 'Chinatown,' 1875-1939," in Antoinette Burton, ed. Gender, Sexuality and Colonial Modernities (Routledge, 1999).
  • "'White Label' et 'peril jaune': Race Genre et Travail a San Francisco au XIXe siecle et au debut du Xxe siecle" Clio: Histoire, Femmes et Societies (France), 1996, number 3, pp. 95-115 (trans. "The 'White Label' and the 'Yellow Peril': Race, Gender and Labor in San Francisco in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries").
  • "Sexuality, Identity and the Uses of History" in Social Perspectives in Lesbian and Gay Studies: A Reader, Peter M. Nardi and Beth E. Schneider, eds. (New York, Routledge, 1998) and in Q & A: Queer in Asia America, David Eng and Alice Horn, eds. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998).



Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West (University of California Press, American Crossroads Series, 2011)

Stranger Intimacy


  • Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco's Chinatown, (University of California Press, American Crossroads Series, 2001).
  • Contagious Divides was awarded the History Book Award (2001) from the Association of Asian American Studies.
  • http://www.amazon.com/Contagious-Divides-Epidemics-Franciscos-Crossroads/dp/0520226291
  • http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/9144.html
Contagious Divides


Professor Shah’s teaching fields are 19th to mid-20th century U.S. political, social and cultural history, American Studies,  and Ethnic Studies. He teaches courses in Asian American History, History of Gender and Sexuality, Queer Studies, History of Public Health and Medicine both in the U.S. context as well as in transnational and relational contexts.

  • HILD 7B. Race and Ethnicity in the U.S.
  • HIUS 115 History of Sexuality
  • HIUS 124/ETHN 125. Asian American History.
  • HITO 165/265 Topics in LGBT History
  • HIUS 176/HIGR 276. Race and Sexual Politics in the U.S.
  • CGS 105. Queer Theory: U.S. Sexual Histories.

Graduate Seminars:

  • Race and Racialization
  • 19th Century: Conquest, Slavery, Emancipation and Empire
  • Intimacy, Association and Democracy
  • Gender and Sexual Formations in America
  • Genealogies of the Asian American Past
  • Research Seminar in U.S. History
  • New Directions in American Studies
  • Ethnic Studies
  • ETHN 262. Race, Inequality and Health.

 Collaborative Research Projects

  • “Transnational Queer and Transgender Studies” Working Group 2010- (supported by grant funds from the UCSD ICAS and UC Humanities Research Institute)
  • “Diversity of American Conservatism” 2012- (supported by grant from the UCSD Interdisciplinary Collaboratories Grant)

New Research Projects

“Spiritual Migrations and Remaking Gendered Worlds.”

This project compares three transnational spiritual communities in the first three decades of the twentieth century to illuminate the role of transnational spiritual networks in the refashioning of intimacy and kinship in early 20th century United States and Asia.  This research addresses new scholarship on secular society, internationalism and transnational networks and their influences in the contests between established religious institutions, syncretic religious movements and liberal states over the terrain of gender and sexuality in kinship and intimate ties. The first case study follows heterodox Ahmadiyya Muslim missionaries from India who proselytized and converted African Americans and Southeastern Europeans in Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis in the 1920s and 1930s and reordered marriage, intimate friendship and kinship ties.  The second examines how Filipino Catholic lay leadership investigated the social welfare of Filipino male students and migrants in 1920s Seattle and San Francisco and pressured American Catholic leadership to develop segregated programs to resist Protestant conversion and the alleged seduction of white Protestant women.  The third explores the activities of Hindu spiritual teachers in Southern California and their spiritual, political and intimate impact on immigrant European, main line Protestant and Jewish female and male followers.

“Translating Medical Ethics and Hunger Strikes: Gandhi, Chavez and South Africa”

The research investigates the emergence of medical ethics protocols and applied psychological knowledge in response to the use of hunger strikes and protest pasts by both charismatic social movement leaders and by mass detainees in the twentieth century.  The project compares the medical and psychological attention to the proetest fasts of Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez with the emergence of mass hunger strikes of detainees in South Africa in 1989-90 and political prisoners in Northern Ireland, Turkey, Britain and the United States.  The research pays special attention to the early 1990s revision of international medical professional “best practices” and ethics in the treatment of incarcerated hunger strikers and the debates among physicians, psychologists and grass roots advocacy organizations. I both to address the immediate care of detainees as well as to develop community-based psychology and healing for detainees, their families and intimates outside and released detainee after the hunger strikes.