Skip to main content

Nayan Shah

Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History

Contact Information
Phone: (213) 740-2426
Office: KAP 462

Curriculum Vitae


Ph.D. History, University of Chicago, 6/1995
M.A. History, University of Chicago, 8/1990
B.A. History, Economics and Religion, Swarthmore College, 5/1988

Postdoctoral Training

Visiting Fellow, Humanities Research Institute, University of California Irvine, Fall 1998   
Postdoctoral Fellow, Project on Cities and Urban Knowledges, New York University, 1997-1998   

Academic Appointment, Affiliation, and Employment History

Tenure Track Appointments

Professor, University of Southern California , 07/2012-  
Professor, University of California San Diego , 2012  
Associate Professor, University of California San Diego, 2000-2012  
Assistant Professor of History, State University of New York Binghamton, 1995-2000  

Visiting and Temporary Appointments

Freeman Distinguished Visiting Professor, Wesleyan Univerisity, Fall 2006   

Description of Research

Summary Statement of Research Interests

Nayan Shah is a historian with expertise in U.S. and Canadian history, gender and sexuality studies, legal and medical history, and Asian American Studies. He is the author of two award-winning books - Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West (University of California Press, 2011) and Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (University of California Press, 2001). Stranger Intimacy uncovers international migrant’s practices of social navigation, community building, and participation in interethnic social worlds that undermine the containment efforts of nation-states and empires. As a way to understand the larger picture, it follows the experiences of South Asian migrants in collaboration with domestic and international migrants and their struggles over social and intimate relations in the United States and Canada from 1900 to the 1940s. Contagious Divides examines the problem of citizenship and the governance of modern society through an analysis of public health and Chinese immigration in San Francisco from 1854 to 1952. The portrayal of Chinatown as a nexus of infection, domestic chaos and moral danger reverberated widely in the political and cultural life of San Francisco residents. The book traces how the public health rhetoric of the contagion of Chinatown bachelor society provided white politicians, white middle-class female social reformers, and white male labor leaders the necessary foil against which they were able to elaborate the vision and norms of nuclear family domestic life and a sanitary social order. Professor Shah’s new research examines prison hunger strikes and transformations in medical ethics and human rights movements across the past thirty years by exploring struggles in apartheid South Africa, refugee asylum and political prisoner protests in Europe, Middle East and Australia, and most recently in the California Prisons and in Guantanamo. A second large-scale research project is a comparative study of transnational spiritual migrations, gender and intimacy in the early twentieth century United States that examines Muslim, Catholic and Hindu missions and the development of interracial spiritual communities in Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and Seattle. Shah is also the editor of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (Duke University Press). Shah is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, van Humboldt Foundation and Freeman Foundation.

Research Specialties

(Ph.D, University of Chicago, 1995) Asian American Studies; Gender, LGBT and Queer Studies; 19th and 20th century U.S. and Canadian Western History; Medical and Public Health History, Law, Social Justice and Social



Shah, N. Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.
Shah, N. (2001). Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco's Chinatown. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Shah, N. (1998). "Sexuality, Identity and the Uses of History". New York: Routledge.

Book Chapter

Shah, N. (2014). "Feeling for the Protest Faster: How the Self-Starving Body Influences Social Movements and Global Medical Ethics". Science and Emotions after 1945 Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Shah, N. (2013). "Intimate Dependency, Race and Trans-Imperial Migration". The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants New York: New York University Press.
Shah, N. (2010). "Public Health and the Mapping of Chinatown". New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
Shah, N. (2009). "Between Oriental Depravity" and Natural Degenerates": Spatial Borderlands and the Making of Ordinary Americans". American Studies: An Anthology Wiley Blackwell.
Shah, N. (2006). "Contested Intimacies: Adjudicating 'Hindu Marriage' in U.S. Frontiers". pp. pp. 116-139. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.
Shah, N. (2006). "Between Oriental Depravity" and Natural Degenerates": Spatial Borderlands and the Making of Ordinary Americans". Legal Borderlands: Law and the Construction of Ame Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Shah, N. (2003). "Perversity, Contamination and the Dangers of Queer Domesticity". Queer Studies: An Interdisciplinary Reader Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Shah, N. (1999). "Cleansing Motherhood: Hygiene and the Culture of Domesticity in San Francisco’s ‘Chinatown,’ 1875-1939". Gender, Sexuality and Colonial Modernities London: Routledge.

Journal Article

Shah, N. (2013). "Race-ing Sex". Frontiers: Journal of Women's Studies. Vol. 34 (3)
Shah, N. (2005). "Policing Privacy, Migrants and the Limits of Freedom". Duke University Press. (84-85), pp. pp. 275-284.
Shah, N. (2005). "Between Oriental Depravity" and Natural Degenerates": Spatial Borderlands and the Making of Ordinary Americans". American Quarterly.
Shah, N. (1996). " ‘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. (3), pp. 95-115.

Honors and Awards

Recipient of National or International Prize in Discipline, American Historical Association Pacific Branch Norris and Carol Hundley Award for Most Distinguished Book on any historical subject , 2012-2013   
Alexander von Humbolt Fellowship Recipient, Alexander van Humboldt Humanities Connection Grant, 6/2010-8/2010  
Freeman Foundation Distinguished Scholar Award, Fall 2006   
University of California Humanities Research Institute Research Group Fellowship Award, Spring 2006   
Rockefeller Fellowship Recipient, Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship, 2002-2003   
Recipient of National or International Prize in Discipline, Association of Asian American Studies History Book Prize , Spring 2003   
University of California Humanities Research Institute Fellowship, Fall 1998   
Mellon Fellowship, 1994-1995   
Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, 1988-1989   

Service to the University

Administrative Appointments

Chair, 08/16/2016-08/15/2018  
Chair, 08/16/2012-08/15/2015  

Service to the Profession

Editorships and Editorial Boards

Editor, GLQ: Journal Of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 07/01/2011-07/01/2014  

Professional Offices

Executive Committee, American Studies Association, 2010-2013  
National Council Elected Member, American Studies Association, 07/2010-07/2013  
Faculty may update their profile by visiting