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 Asian/Pacific/American (A/P/A) 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. He is author of the award-winning books New York before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776-1882 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001) and Genthe's Photographs of San Francisco's Old Chinatown, 1895-1905 (Dover Publications, 1984). He is the co-author, along with Dylan Yeats, of Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear, which was published by Verso in 2014.
Professor Tchen was awarded the Charles S. Frankel Prize from the National Endowment for the Humanities and, in 2012, received the NYU MLK Jr Humanitarian Award. He is co-principle investigator of “Asian Americas and Pacific Islanders Facts, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight” produced with The College Board. He 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.. 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 that focuses on the unrecognized tradition of the intermingling of people, creativity, and improvisation of everyday residents. 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 the Museum of Chinese in America’s core exhibition: “With a single step: stories in the making of America” in a space designed by Maya Lin.
Teaching and Research Interests
cross-cultural and community studies; New York City history; Asians in the Americas; race, colonialism, and museums; dialogic theory and radical pedagogy
B.A., University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1973 M.A., New York University, 1987 Ph.D. History, New York University, 1992