Past Event
Wednesday, March 10
Rice Architecture Lecture: Nayan Shah

About the Event

Nayan Shah, professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History, University of Southern California, presents the lecture “Spatial Inequities: The “Chinatown” Problem in Today’s Pandemic Times” on Wednesday, March 10 at 12:00 p.m. via Zoom as part of the Rice Architecture Spring 2021 Lecture Series.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly upended assumptions of human habitation, proximity and health and demands a reassessment of a century and half of public health governance in society and its manifestations both locally and trans-locally. This presentation draws attention to how historical models of public health have aggravated racial, class and spatial disparities that make essential workers, immigrant workers and impoverished urban communities acutely vulnerable, while middle and upper class communities command relative safety and health preservation resources. By examining how “Chinatowns” as racial ghettos were created, targeted, policed, and reformed, this presentation addresses the social and spatial challenges of the logics of “health security.”

Nayan Shah is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History at the University of Southern California. His expertise is in the history of health and law, Asian American Studies and LGTBTQ studies. He is the author of Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (2001) and Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West (2012) . His new book, The Refusal to Eat: A Century of Prison Hunger Strikes (forthcoming University of California Press, January 2022) is the first global history of hunger strikes as a tactic in prisons, conflicts and movements around the world . The book examines what it takes to resist and oppose state power within the precincts of prison and then broadcast that opposition beyond its walls and how, through media and movements, hunger striking stretches and recasts a personal agony into a collective social agony.

The Rice Architecture Spring 2021 Lecture Series, “New Proximities,” is a collective reckoning of health as a social, political, and fundamentally spatial condition. The global pandemic has not only produced profound shifts in the built environment, but also revealed latent precarities embedded in forms of governance, labor, domesticity, and ecology. This lecture series asks: How does COVID-19 and its compounding crises render visible the uneven geographies in which we operate? How might we reformat existing systems beyond the confining world of pandemic space? Expanding scales and spaces of architectural agency, we will hear from critical voices in design, history, and theory to imagine new futures of care and proximity.

All lectures are free and open to the public. Please be sure to register online for each lecture to receive the link to join. For more information on all lectures and to register to attend, visit and

This lecture series is made possible through the generous support of the Betty R. and George F. Pierce Jr., FAIA, Fund, the Wm. W. Caudill Lecture Series for Students in Architecture, and the William B. Coleman, Jr. Colloquium Fund for Architecture.

All spring 2021 lectures are eligible for one AIA/CES Learning Unit. Rice Design Alliance is an AIA/CES Registered Provider of quality educational programs.

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