Faculty by Research Specialization

The Department of History at UC Santa Cruz is known for its innovative research and exemplary scholarship. Our faculty work at the cutting edge of their respective fields, covering a wide variety of geographic, temporal, and thematic fields of study. The areas of specialization listed here are by no means an exhaustive list of our scholastic interests. Rather, they highlight the diverse and often overlapping ideas and approaches we explore within our teaching and research.

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 2023: On Leave.
  • Mail Stop Humanities Academic Services
  • 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, Ania Mah Gricuk

Summary of Expertise

Modern and contemporary China through transnational, diasporic, and oceanic approaches

Research Interests

Coastal south 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 transnational and modern China. My interests lie in the intersection of diasporas, nations, empires, regions, and genders.  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 Wisconsin-Madsion from 2011 to 2020 and at the University of Victoria from 2009 to 2011.


I am the PI of the Transnational China research hub seeded by the UCSC Office of Research. Additionally, I am an appointed member of The American Historical Review's Board of Editors for East Asia and the Pacific World.


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 continue to search for other frameworks to explain Chinese politics, culture, and identity, and to better capture their complexity, diversity, and contradictions. My current research explores a series of keywords in Chinese history through a transnational lens. A larger project focuses on the disapppearance of the Nanyang ("South Seas'), an intercoastal region connecting China, East Asia, and Southeast Asia until the mid-20th century. 


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 and the maritime world 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; China in transnational and global perspectives