Ashanti Shih

Photo of Ashanti Shih
as121@wellesley.edu
Environmental Studies
B.A., University of California (Berkeley); M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., Yale University

Ashanti Shih

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Studies

I am an environmental historian studying race, settler colonialism, and the environmental sciences in the twentieth-century Pacific and American West.


My research brings the critical studies of race and settler colonialism into dialogue with histories of the natural sciences and the environment. I’m interested in the complicated ethics of performing scientific and environmental work on Indigenous land and in relation to Indigenous and racialized communities. My first book, currently under preparation as "Invasive Ecologies: Science and Settler Colonialism in Twentieth-Century Hawai‘i," explores this issue through a history of invasion biology, natural preservation, and the U.S. national park system in Hawai‘i over the long twentieth century. The book is based on my dissertation, which won several awards, including the Rachel Carson Prize for best dissertation in environmental history from the American Society for Environmental History. My newer projects focus on Asian American relationships to nonhuman nature, species belonging, and the natural sciences.

My teaching interests span environmental history, the history of science, Asian American studies, and settler colonial studies. At Wellesley, I will be teaching courses in environmental history and environmental justice that emphasize decolonial and social justice approaches. I believe that courses such as “Botany, Ecology, and Empire” or “Environmental Movements in US History” can complement students’ science training by helping them understand the historical, social, and political contexts of their work as environmental experts and their relationship to marginalized communities.

Recently I have been engaging in more public history work, including working with botanical gardens and herbaria on their interpretive materials. I am also part of a team of historians working on a public-facing project about L.A.’s original Chinatown, a project which is sponsored by the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California and the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West.