Santa Clara University

Ethnic Studies Program

James S. Lai, Professional WebPhoto

Dr. James S. Lai

Associate Professor
Political Science Dept. and Ethnic Studies Program
St. Joseph's Hall 119
(408) 554-5760 

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James S. Lai is an Associate Professor who holds a joint appointment with the Ethnic Studies Program and the Department of Political Science at Santa Clara University.  Dr. Lai currently serves as the Director of the Ethnic Studies Program since 2008. 

Dr. Lai received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Southern California (2000) and his M.A. in Asian American Studies from the University of California at Los Angeles (1992).  His teaching and research interests and specialties include U.S. racial and ethnic politics, U.S. immigration, Asian American politics, urban politics, community studies, and California state and local politics.  In 2011, Dr. Lai published his book, Asian American Political Action: Suburban Transformations (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers), which examines the demographic shifts and the rise of Asian American political incorporation in small to medium size suburbs throughout the continental United States.   

Dr. Lai has commentated in state, national, and international media such as NPR’s “California Report” and “Forum,” the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle, China Daily News, World Journal, the New York Times, and CNN.


● Ethnic Studies 40: Intro to Asian American Studies

● Ethnic Studies 153: Minority Politics in the United States

● Ethnic Studies 142: Asian American Communities

Selected Publications

Lai, James S. 2011.  Asian American Political Action: Suburban Transformations.  Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Nakanishi, Don T. and James S. Lai, eds.  2003.  Asian American Politics: Law, Participation, and Policy.  Boulder, CO: Rowman & Littlefield.

Nakanishi, Don T. and James S. Lai, eds.  National Asian Pacific American Political Almanac, Editions 6 to 14.  Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press.

Lai, James S.  2010. “Multiplexing Racial and Ethnic Planes: Chinese American Politics in Globalized Immigrant Suburbs,” Amerasia Journal 36:3, 83-105.

Lai, James S. and Kim Geron.  2006.  “When Asian Americans Run: The Suburban and Urban Dimensions of Asian American Candidates in California Local Politics.”  California Politics & Policy, Vol. 10, No. 1: 62-88.

Geron, Kim and James S. Lai.  2002. "Beyond Symbolic Representation: A Comparison of the Electoral Pathways and Policy Priorities of Asian American and Latino Elected Officials,” Asian Law Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1: 41-81.

Lai, James S., Thomas P. Kim, Wendy Cho, and Okiyoshi Takeda. 2001.  "Asian Pacific American Campaigns, Elections, and Elected Officials,” PS: Political Science & Politics, Vol. 34, No. 3: 611-618.

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