John Cheng is a historian of nineteenth and twentieth-century America and the history of science and technology. He earned his A.B. from Harvard College and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and has taught at George Mason University, Northwestern University, Haverford College, and Binghamton University. His research interests include popular culture, media, and technology; gender, race, and ethnic relations; the history of earth, life, and human sciences and of computing; and historiography and critical theory. He was a contributor to California Newsreel’s documentary series and web site, Race: The Power of an Illusion. John also holds a patent from youthful summers as a research intern. While he used to play basketball, volleyball, and Ultimate frisbee, he now enjoys scenic bicycle rides and the company of friends and family, particularly his nieces and nephews.
For many years John was involved with the Asian Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project in Washington, DC where he also helped form APA Film, which organizes DC’s annual Asian American film festival, and served on the advisory board for Tsunami Theatre. In Chicago, he served on the board of the Asian Pacific American Legal Advocacy Network (APLAN).
John’s book, Astounding Wonder: Imagining Science and Science Fiction in Interwar America (2012), is published by the University of Pennsylvania Press and now also available in paperback (2014). Locus Magazine selected Astounding Wonder for its 2012 Recommended Reading list.
He is working on two new inter-related projects in Asian American history. The first, tentatively titled When Indians Were White, and Other Tales of Citizenship Lost and Won, re-considers the history of early 20th century American citizenship, telling the stories of Asian Americans who, despite racial barriers to the contrary, successfully naturalized, those whose citizenship was taken away, and their efforts to fight, redress, and address the ways their racial – and gender and family – status denied them social and legal equality. A second, larger project, Barred Zones: The Strange Geography of Asian Pacific America, considers the geographic implications of racial modernity, exploring the broader inter-relationships between technology, territory, law, and race for the United States and other emergent nation-states in the late 19th and early 20th century age of empire.
John is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies at Binghamton University.