Mae Ngai

Mae Ngai
Lecture date
Originally aired: March 28th, 2023
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics

Mae Ngai is the Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and a professor of history at Columbia University. She is a U.S. legal and political historian interested in the histories of immigration, citizenship, nationalism, and the Chinese diaspora. Her latest book, The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics, was winner of the 2022 Bancroft Prize. This distinguished history of the Chinese diaspora and global capitalism chronicles how a feverish alchemy of race and money brought Chinese people to the West and reshaped the nineteenth century. Drawing on ten years of research across five continents, Ngai narrates the story of the thousands of Chinese who left their homeland in pursuit of gold and how they formed communities and organizations to help navigate their perilous new world.

Ngai is author of the award-winning book Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America and The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America. Ngai has written on immigration history and policy for the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, the Nation, and Dissent. Before becoming a historian, Ngai was a labor-union organizer and educator in New York City, New York, working for District 65-UAW and the Consortium for Worker Education. She is currently writing Nation of Immigrants: A Short History of an Idea (under contract with Princeton University Press). Ngai lives in New York City, New York, and Accokeek, Maryland.