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Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Nayan Shah is a historian whose books uncover how people struggle with illness, migration and incarceration in the United States and across the globe from the 19th century to the present. Shah is Professor of American Studies & Ethnicity and History at the University of Southern California.

Nayan Shah is the author of three books: Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (2001), Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West (2012), and Refusal to Eat: A Century of Prison Hunger Strikes (2022). His research has appeared in American Quarterly, Social Text, GLQ, Amerasia Journal, Frontiers: Journal of Women’s History and Clio (France). His articles cover a broad array of subjects and have been published in volumes on the history of gender, sexuality and empire; pandemics and quarantine; transnational history of science and emotions; empire and intimacy in North America; Asian American art and politics in California; South Asian American diaspora; history of Sexuality; Queer and LGBT Studies, and Law and American Borderlands; and Biopolitics and Citizenship.

Shah has received fellowships and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Mellon Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, van Humboldt Foundation, Thomas J. Watson Foundation and Freeman Foundation.

Through his career as a professor, Shah has mentored undergraduate and graduate students who have advanced to a careers as high school history teachers; community college professors; attorneys in labor, immigration, and corporate law; non-profit directors and program coordinators, university community engagement and student services administrators; corporate research and training; and city planners. The PhD students whom he advised are now professors at universities including Tufts University, Drexel University, University of British Columbia, and hold research positions at the Library of Congress. In addition, he has served in doctoral and postdoctoral training and dissertation committees for students who are teaching and research faculty at a variety of public and private colleges across the United States, Canada and Japan.

He is featured in documentaries on Asian American History and the History of Contagion and Pandemics for PBS and the History Channel. He has worked with the National Park Service, Angel Island Foundation, California Historical Society, and the New York Historical Society to interpret Asian American past and present. He serves on the board of Los Angeles’ East West Players, the longest-running Asian American theater in the U.S.


  • –present
    Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences