Jack Tchen will be presenting at The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation Seminar in New York and American Material Culture on Tuesday, December 13 at 6 pm. His talk is entitled “Foreign Phobia & the American Republic—Spinning Loss and Fear in Campaign Election Cycles.”


Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen is an award-winning historian and curator currently researching the ongoing impacts of eugenics on American life, Jim Crow spatiality, subaltern archives, and modern organizational design. Recent exhibitions include The Haunted Files: The Eugenics Record Office, The Normal, and In the Shadow of the Highway: Robert Moses’ Expressway & the Battle for Downtown. Tchen co-authored Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear (2014). He is completing a six-year arc of work on the Chinese Exclusion Act and how/why it has been invisibilized in US history and culture. This includes an exhibit with the New-York Historical Society called Chinese America: Exclusion/Inclusion, and working with Ric Burns and Li-shin Yu (Steeplechase Films) on a PBS documentary airing on The American Experience (Spring 2017), a companion book (Knopf), and teaching a NEH Summer Institute (2016) at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). Tchen co-founded MOCA in 1980. He also founded the A/P/A (Asian/Pacific/American) Program & Institute at New York University.

Calls to “take back America” frequent campaign cycles targeting various “others” as the reason for America’s problems. In this political universe shifts in the economy, the role of trade, and “foreign” populations in the US become the “go to” hot button issues to sway would be voters. Too often, Asian Americans (and now Muslim Americans) have become the scapegoats of such electioneering rhetoric. This talk will examine the historical roots of this All-American phenomenon, offer a post-mortem of this recent Presidential election, and explore what we can do about this cyclic problem in the political culture.