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Ph.D. — Columbia University, 1998 (with distinction)
M.A. — Columbia University, 1993
B.A. — SUNY Empire State, 1992
Interests and Research
Mae M. Ngai, Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History, is a U.S. legal and political historian interested in questions of immigration, citizenship, and nationalism. She is author of the award winning Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (2004) and The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America (2010). Ngai has written on immigration history and policy for the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and the Boston Review. Before becoming a historian she was a labor-union organizer and educator in New York City, working for District 65-UAW and the Consortium for Worker Education. She is now writing The Chinese Question (under contract with WW Norton), a study of Chinese gold miners and racial politics in nineteenth-century California, Australia, and South Africa; and Nation of Immigrants: A Short History of an Idea (under contract with Princeton University Press).
- Immigrants in American History and Life (lecture)
- Colonization/Decolonization (undergraduate seminar)
- Transnational Migration and Citizenship (graduate/undergraduate seminar)
- Historiography for PhD students
Fellowships and Grants
- Shelby Collum Davis for Historical Studies, Princeton University (Spring 2018)
- Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the North, Library of Congress (Fall 2017)
- Huntington Library (Spring 2017)
- Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2013)
- OAH-AHRAC China Residency Program (2013)
- Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange (2012)
- Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, New York Public Library (2012)
- Institute for Advanced Study (2009)
- John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2009)
- Huntington Library (2006)
- Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard (2003)
- NYU Law School (2000)
- Social Science Research Council (1999)
- Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Columbia
- Editorial Board, International Labor and Working Class History
- Editorial Board, Journal of American Ethnic History
Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton 2004). Winner of six book awards including Frederick Jackson Turner prize (OAH), Littleton Griswold prize (AHA), Lora Romero prize (ASA), Theodore Salutos prize (Immigration and Ethnic History Society).
The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2010; paperback edition, Princeton University Press, 2012; in Chinese translation (幸运之家) from Commercial Press, Beijing (2015) and (幸運寵兒) from University Press of National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei (2014).
Editor (with Jon Gjerde), Major Problems in American Immigration History, second ed. (Cengage 2011).
Recent Articles and Opinions
“Now the Trump Administration is trying to Punish Legal Immigrants for Being Poor,” Washington Post, August 9, 2018 (co-authored with Torrie Hester, Mary E. Mendoza and Deirdre Moloney)
“The Immigration Border Enforcement Myth,” New York Times, Jan. 29, 2018
“The Dark History of Defining ‘Family’,” New York Times, July 19, 2017.
“Trouble on the Rand: The Chinese Question in South Africa and the Apogee of White Settlerism,” International Labor and Working Class History 91 (Spring 2017).
Why Muslims are the New Chinese, CNN Jan. 30, 2017.
“Chinese Gold Miners and the 'Chinese Question' in Nineteenth-Century California and Victoria,” in Oxford Journals, Journal of American History, (2015).
“Executive Justice?” (with Daniel Kanstroom), Dissent, Spring 2015
“Second-class Non-citizens,” New York Times, Jan. 31, 2014.
“The True Story of Ah Jake: Language, Law and Justice in Nineteenth-Century Sierra County, California,” in Cultures in Motion, ed. Rodgers, Raman, and Reimitz (2014)
“Reforming Immigration for Good,” New York Times, Jan. 30, 2013.