Tchen John Kuo Wei (Prof.)
- Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen is a historian, curator, dumpster diver, and teacher. Professor Tchen is the Inaugural Clement A Price Professor of Public History & Humanities at Rutgers University – Newark and the Director of the Clement Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture & the Modern Experience, Rutgers – Newark.
Recently, he organized the Anti-Eugenics Project to reckon with the centennial of the Second International Eugenics Congress held at the American Museum of Natural History in 1921. “Dismantling Eugenics” sought to surface, reckon, and transform the unresolved, disabling impacts of such practices and policies on the US political culture, ultimately addressing why we as a nation have trouble dealing with public policy challenges such as the COVID pandemic and global warming. Tchen currently serves on the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC). He is working on a special report about the history of the estuarial region and the ecological impacts of settler colonialism and how their extreme extraction practices, driven by global trade and US expansionism, still continue to wreck havoc to this day.
Tchen served as the senior historian for a New-York Historical Society exhibition on the impact of Chinese Exclusion Laws on the formation of the US (2014–15) and also as senior advisor for Ric Burns and Lishin Yu’s American Experience PBS documentary on the “Chinese Exclusion Act” (2017). His book Yellow Peril: An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear (2014) is a critical, archival study of images, excerpts, and essays on the history and contemporary impact of paranoia and xenophobia. He also cofounded the Public History Project (PHP) in 2019, reframing the history of the estuarial region starting with the twined foundational histories of dispossession and enslavement (work emerging from serving as a Commissioner on the NYC Mayor’s Commission on Monuments in 2018) and grappling with our settler colonial illiteracy about the land and waters upon which we all live. He was founding director of the A/P/A (Asian/Pacific/American) Studies Program and Institute and part of the founding faculty of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University (1996–2018). In 1980, he cofounded the New York Chinatown History Project, now called the Museum of Chinese in America.
In addition, Tchen has produced and curated many productions including websites, films, exhibitions, archives, and countless public and academic programs. He has written essays, articles, and authored/edited award-winning books, notably Genthe’s Photographs of San Francisco’s Old Chinatown (1984); The Chinese Laundryman: A Study of Social Isolation by Paul C. P. Siu (1987); and New York Before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776–1882 (1999).