Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen is a historian, curator, writer, and dumpster diver devoted to anti-racist, anti-colonialist democratic participatory storytelling, scholarship, and opening up archives, museums, organizations, and classroom spaces to the stories and realities of those excluded and deemed “unfit” in master narratives. Professor Tchen has been honored to be the Inaugural Clement A. Price Professor of Public History & Humanities at Rutgers University – Newark and Director of the Clement Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture & the Modern Experience, since Fall 2018. Decolonizing the histories of Newark, NYC, and our estuarial bioregion is his primary focus.
Engaged with global warming crisis, eco justice, and the deep history of the region, Tchen founded the New York - Newark Public History Project (or The Public History Project), funded by the Ford Foundation. And he has been appointed to the New York City Panel on Climate Change dealing with the 31-county regional estuarial impacts we are all facing. He has been supporting three Munsee Lunaape communities with their Homeland efforts reconstructing their language, maps, place names, and stories. 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—causing havoc to this day.
The PHP is reframing the history of the estuarial region starting with the foundational histories of dispossession and enslavement (work emerging from serving as a Commissioner on the NYC Mayor’s Commission on Monuments in 2018) as entangled with British “political arithmetic” quantifying and commodifying Indigenous North American lands and peoples into objects of imperialist “free market” trade. Today, our inability to grapple with the climate crisis is linked to our settler colonial illiteracy about the land and waters upon which we all live.
In 2021, Tchen co-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. This ongoing work on eugenics in the New York City region surfaces how patrician elites fashioned, tested, measured, sorted tiered hierarchic system of “fit” European-descended “Nordics” on top, and the rankings of the great majority of “unfit” below--resulting in the Immigration Act of 1924 and practices of sterilization and incarceration all still impacting US political culture to this day. Currently, the AEP is entering engaged in Phase Two dialogues and readying for Phase Three modular, social media productions.
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—often recommended to gain perspective on the virulence and long history anti-Asian violence in the US and elsewhere.
Tchen 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). In 2007 he was commissioned by The College Board to produce the report “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Fact, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight” (2008) challenging the divisions construction of the model minority.
While at NYU, Tchen built a major collection of Asian/Pacific/American books and community archives notably including the Yoshio Kishi Collection and the Jack G. Shaheen Collection of Anti-Arab representations in US television and Hollywood. In 2014, the A/P/A Studies Institute organized “Radical Archives” led by artists-in-residence Mariam Ghani and Chitra Ganesh with the threads Archive and Affect, Archiving Around Absence, Archives and Ethics, and Archive as Constellation. Tchen has written about and worked on underground archives, dialogue-driven museums, historic preservation, digital archives, the power of place, and decolonizing pedagogy.
Salamishah Tillet is currently the Robert S. Blank Presidential Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies and a faculty member of the Alice Paul Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a much sought-after commenter on the politics of artistic expression and a leading thinker on the relationship between art and social justice. In 2003, she co-founded A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based national non-profit that uses art to educate, inspire, and mobilize young people to end violence against girls and women.
Professor Tillet received her Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization and A.M. in English from Harvard University and her M.A.T. from Brown University. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania where she received her B.A. in English and Afro-American Studies. In 2010-11, she was the recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellowship for Career Enhancement and served as a visiting fellow at the Center of African American Studies at Princeton University. In 2010, she was awarded the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Award for Distinguished Teaching by an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2013-14, she was a Scholar-in-Residence at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Her book Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Imagination (Duke University Press, 2012) examines how contemporary African American artists, writers, and intellectuals remember antebellum slavery within post-Civil Rights America in order to challenge the ongoing exclusion of African Americans from America’s civic myths and to model a racially democratic future. In 2010, she co-edited the Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters Special Issue on Ethiopia and her work has appeared in American Literary History, American Quarterly, Callaloo, Novel, Research in African Literatures, Savoring the Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara, Violence in the Lives of Black Women: Battered, Black, and Blue, and Women's Review of Books. She is currently working on a book on the civil rights icon Nina Simone.
Salamishah has appeared on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, TedxWomen, and written blogs and editorials for The Atlantic, the Chicago Tribune, The Guardian, The Nation, the New York Times, The Root, and Time. In 2010, she wrote the liner notes for John Legend and The Roots’ three-time Grammy award-winning album, Wake Up!. In 2013, she published Gloria Steinem: The Kindle Singles Interview for Amazon.
Her research interests include American Studies, twentieth and twenty-first century African American literature, film, popular music, cultural studies, and feminist theory.
Alexandra Chang is Associate Professor of Practice with the Art History program at the Department of Arts, Culture and Media and affiliated with the Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience. Chang works on the topics of EcoArt and Global Asias Art at RU-N, where she gathers the monthly EcoArt Salons at the Paul Robeson Galleries at Express Newark and is a part of the campus-wide Eco Working Group. She organizes the Climate Working Group, a creative gathering of more than 50 members that bridges Science, Humanities and Arts researchers, scholars, artists, practitioners, and institutions for short and long term collaborations considering climate, data, policy, power, and the history of globalization. She also serves as Vice Chair on the Communications Committee of the Environmental and Climate Network of the Alliance of American Museums.
Chang is the director of the Global Asia/Pacific Art Exchange (GAX)and the Virtual Asian American Art Museum with A/P/A Institute at NYU. She is Co-Founding Editor of Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas(ADVA)with publisher Brill (Leiden) and institutional partners, the Asia/Pacific/American Institute at New York University and the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art at Concordia University. She is Co-Founder of the College Art Association’s affiliated society the Diasporic Asian Art Network(DAAN). She received the New Leadership Award from ArtTable in 2019.
She served on the curatorial committee of What is Feminist Art? (2019-20, Smithsonian Archives of American Art, National Portrait Gallery) and curated exhibitions including CYJO/Mixed(2019, co-curator with artist, NYU Kimmel Windows); Ming Fay:Beyond Nature(2019 Sapar Contemporary); Zarina: Dark Roads(2017-18, co-curator with artist, A/P/A Institute, NYU), (ex)CHANGE: History Place Presence (2018, Asian Arts Initiative); Circles and Circuits: Chinese Caribbean Art (2017-2018, lead curator, Getty PST II: LA/LA, Chinese American Museum and California African American Museum);Portals of Possibility(2017, Smithsonian APAC Culture Lab); 2012+ (2009, co-curator, The Drop: Urban Art Infill special exhibition); Urban Archives: Happy Together— Asian and Asian American Art from the Permanent Collection(2010, Bronx Museum of the Arts);Art, Archives and Activism: Martin Wong’s Downtown Crossings(2009, lead curator, A/P/A Institute, NYU). She also co-curated numerous exhibitions as co-founder of the Dream So Much artist collective.
She was the managing editor of Art Asia Pacific and features editor of amNewYork and has written numerous essays for artist monographs and exhibition catalogues. She is the author of Envisioning Diaspora: Asian American Visual Arts Collectives (Timezone 8, 2018) and editor of Circles and Circuits: Chinese Caribbean Art (Duke UP, 2018).