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Jack Tchen

Jack Tchen

Associate Professor
B.A., University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1973
M.A., New York University, 1987
Ph.D. History, New York University, 1992

Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen is a facilitator, teacher, historian, curator, re-organizer, and dumpster diver. He works on understanding the multiple presents, pasts, the futures of New York City, identity formations, trans-local cross-cultural communications, archives and epistemologies, and progressive pedagogy. He also works on decolonizing Eurocentric ideas, theories, and practices and making our cultural organizations and institutions more representative and democratic. Professor Tchen is the founding director of the A/P/A (Asian/Pacific/American) Studies Program and Institute at New York University and part of the original founding faculty of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU. He co-founded the Museum of Chinese in America in 1979-80 where he continues to serve as senior historian. Jack was awarded the Charles S. Frankel Prize from the National Endowment for the Humanities (renamed The National Medal of Humanities). He is author of the award-winning books New York before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776-1882 and Genthe's Photographs of San Francisco's Old Chinatown, 1895-1905 . And he is co-principle investigator of "Asian Americas and Pacific Islanders Facts, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight" produced with The College Board. Professor Tchen has been building research collections of Asians in the Americas. In doing so, he has critically examined practices of collections and archives to make sense of how we come to know what we know, and don't know. Chen received the NYU MLK Jr Humanitarian Award in 2012. He is currently co-chairing the effort at the Smithsonian Institution to form an Asian Pacific American Center. Professor Tchen is now working on a book about New York City focusing on the unrecognized tradition of the intermingling of people, creativity and improvisation of everyday residents. Tchen and Dylan Yeats’ book, Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear , was published by Verso in 2014. He regularly collaborates with filmmakers and media producers, artists and collectors, and through the A/P/A Institute sponsors and produces hundreds of programs and performances. Most recently, he co-curated MoCA's core exhibition: "With a single step: stories in the making of America" in a new space designed by Maya Lin.


Read a feature on Tchen and two students from his Yellow Peril course on how the course has developed and highlights from the students' perspectives.

Professor Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen, along with Noah Fuller and Mark Tseng Putterman, co-curated the 2014-15 public installation,"Haunted Files: The Eugenics Record Office," on view at 8 Washington Mews. The team also co-curated "The 'Normal': Images from the Haunted Files of Eugenics," on display at NYU's Kimmel Windows at LaGuardia and West 3rd Street. The exhibition was featured in The New York Times article, "When Racism Was a Science 'Haunted Files: The Eugenics Record Office' Recreates a Dark Time in a Laboratory's Past."


Contact Information

Jack Tchen

Associate Professor
411 Laf, Room 306
(212) 998-9150
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2015 Spring

Yellow Peril
Tue 4:55 PM - 7:35 PM

2015 Fall

Dangerous and Intermingled: An Intensive Introduction to Critical Research Practices
Fri 12:30 PM - 6:10 PM

2014 Spring

Yellow Peril
Wed 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM

Dangerous and Intermingled II: Subaltern New York
Tue 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM

2014 Fall

"Chinatown" and the American Imagination
Mon 12:30 PM - 3:15 PM
Wed 12:30 PM - 1:45 PM

Research and Teaching Interests

cross-cultural and community studies; New York City history; Asians in the Americas; race, colonialism, and museums; dialogic theory and radical pedagogy

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New York University
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