Mae Ngai

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Mae Ngai
OccupationHistorian; author
Known forImpossible Subjects
AwardsFrederick Jackson Turner Award
Academic background
Alma materEmpire State College
Columbia University
Doctoral advisorEric Foner
Academic work
InstitutionsColumbia University
University of Chicago
Main interestsAmerican history

Mae Ngai is an American historian and Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History at Columbia University.[1] She focuses on nationalism, citizenship, ethnicity, and race in 20th-century United States history.

Life, education and career[edit]

Ngai writes that "as the daughter of Chinese immigrants, [she] grew up in a home where being in Chinese and being American existed in tension, but not in contradiction", and spent "not a few years in New York's Chinatown community and labor movement as an activist and professional labor educator" before becoming an academic.[2]

She graduated from Empire State College with a BA, from Columbia University with a M.A. in 1993, and Ph.D. in 1998, where she wrote her dissertation under Eric Foner.[3]

After graduation, Ngai obtained postdoctoral fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the New York University School of Law, and, in 2003, the Radcliffe Institute.[3] She taught at the University of Chicago as an associate professor, before returning to Columbia as a full professor in 2006.[4]

Besides publishing in various academic journals, Ngai has written on immigration and related policy for the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and the Boston Review.[4]

Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America discusses the creation of the legal category of an "illegal alien" in the early 20th century, and its social and historical consequences and context.[2]



  • "The Strange Career of the Illegal Alien", Law and History Review, Spring 2003, Vol. 21 No. 1
  • "The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law", The Journal of American History, June 1999, Vol. 86 No. 1
  • Ngai, Mae (September–October 2006). "The Lost Immigration Debate". Boston Review.
  • Ngai, Mae M. (May 16, 2006). "How grandma got legal". The Los Angeles Times.
  • Mae M. Ngai (June 14, 2005). "We Need a Deportation Deadline". The Washington Post.
  • Ngai, Mae (January 28, 2018). "Immigration Border-Enforcement Myth". NYTimes.



  1. ^ "Department of History - Columbia University". Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b Ngai, Mae (2004). Impossible Subjects. Princeton University Press.
  3. ^ a b "Current Fellows: Mae M. Ngai". Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
  4. ^ a b "Mae Ngai". Columbia University Department of History.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2009-11-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]