Jason Oliver Chang

Ph.D., UC Berkeley
Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies
Faculty Affiliate, El Instituto, American Studies, and Maritime Studies

Director, Asian and Asian American Studies Institute

On Leave Fall 2018 – Spring 2019
Office: Beach Hall 417
Phone: (860) 786-9412
Email: Jason.O.Chang@uconn.edu

Areas of Specialty

Asian American History, U.S. Immigration History, Modern Mexico, Global Maritime History

Current Research Interests

Asian and Pacific Maritime History


After finishing my PhD from the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Berkeley in 2010, I lectured in Asian American and Latin American history at the University of Texas at Austin. I also hold a Masters of Public Policy and Administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Combining Asian American Studies and Latin American Studies, I have worked with colleagues in these related fields to push for a hemispheric conception of Asian America that attends to both the transnational features of Asian diasporas in the Americas and the importance of local, regional, and national frames of analysis. My first book, Chino: Racial Transformation of the Chinese in Mexico, 1880-1940 (submitted for review), analyzes the regional histories of Chinese migration and integration in Mexican society to show how the racial image of the Chinese shifted over the course of the 1910 revolution and subsequent reconstruction. The shifts in this racial form demonstrate how Mexican anti-Chinese politics, or antichinismo, influenced the formation of mestizo national identity; the exercise of sovereign authority by the postrevolutionary state; and the cultural politics of how Indians became racialized subject/citizens of the Mexican state.

My second project expands my interests in hemispheric Asian American history in several ways. My short-term research agenda focuses on Asian participation in Pacific and Caribbean seafaring culture. Drawing from business and government records I have begun work on a manuscript that builds upon my recent article in the Pacific Historical Review, “Four Centuries of Imperial Succession in the Comprador Pacific.” <http://phr.ucpress.edu/content/86/2/193> This article won the annual 2018 Koontz Prize from the journal for the most deserving contribution. The larger manuscript is the first multi-ethnic survey of Asian and Pacific Islander participation in the economy, culture, and labor of the inter-Asian and trans-Pacific passages, linking Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. I’m particularly interested in the historical development of oceanic occupations for Asian and Pacific Islanders as an abject source of maritime labor tracing its origins in medieval and early modern maritime cultures, to the British commercial fleets and the U.S. Navy and merchant mariners. My long-term research agenda attends to an environmental history of the Pacific. I’m interested in the ways that the pelagic environment of the ocean acted as an agent of history in successive imperial regimes, Pacific fishery politics and ocean voyages. I aim to build an understanding of the particular features of human maritime life as being environmentally structured and socially signified amidst a multi-ethnic/multi-racial contact zone. To this end I trace the influence of the Pacific through the dynamics of its currents and the technological evolution of oceanic domination from the seafaring occupational forces to gunboats to aerial bombing. Lastly, I examine the Pacific Trash Vortex as a material archive of trans-Pacific histories of toxicity, exploitation, dispossession, and imperialism.

Selected Publications

Chino: Racial Transformation of the Chinese in Mexico, 1880-1940. 

Asian America: A Primary Source Reader.

Personal Interests

When I’m not working at UConn I’m usually spending time with my three kids and partner, Julie. In other moments I love gardening and carpentry.