Hardeep Dhillon

Hardeep Dhillon headshot

Assistant Professor of History

College Hall 308A

Hardeep Dhillon (pronouns are she/her/hers) is the child of immigrants, a storyteller, and a historian. She is currently Assistant Professor in Asian American History and core faculty in the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Dhillon is also a member of the Penn Migration Initiative Executive Committee. 

Prior to arriving at Penn, Professor Dhillon completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the American Bar Foundation, an interdisciplinary legal research institute based in Chicago, Illinois. She earned her doctorate at Harvard University in History with a secondary field of study in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. At Harvard, her teaching earned her the Faculty of the Year Award. 



Ph.D., Harvard University, 2021

Research Interests

Professor Dhillon’s research focuses on the history of immigration to the United States, and the laws and legal practices that shape immigrant lives. Professor Dhillon’s current book project, tentatively titled America’s Modern Immigrant Family, studies the legal construction of the modern immigrant family through the lens of Asian American history. Through the twentieth century, lawmakers struggled to account for the place of non-White immigrant families in the United States. Their efforts to manage these families resulted in the new legal definitions and meanings to which families were associated with rights to family unity, home, and belonging. By the early twentieth century, Congress and federal courts excluded Asian immigrants from naturalization with the intent to facilitate the creation and settlement of a White citizenry. The consequence of immigrants’ exclusion from US citizenship was the creation of the nation’s first permanent alien, mixed-status, and undocumented immigrant families. America’s Modern Immigrant Family tells their family histories through a history of relational race formations using a fabric of oral histories, family documents, memoirs, court records, and an array of other textual materials. 

Courses Taught

At Penn, Professor Dhillon teaches courses on the history of American immigration and border enforcement, the advent of the modern family, and US immigration and law. You can find parts of Professor Dhillon’s intellectual journey on Instagram and Twitter. 

Selected Publications

Professor Dhillon has published on the history of modern citizenship and alienage in the United States and Asian American family history. Her writing on US citizenship, alienage, race, and family can be found in Law & History Review, Smithsonian Magazine, and The Caravan. Her latest article exploring the legal history of compensation and empire can be found in The Historical Journal. Professor Dhillon writes on the intersection of law and immigrant life more widely. Professor Dhillon’s forthcoming articles explore the legal history of children, family life, and immigration and border enforcement, and racial violence targeting South Asian immigrants in the US West in the early twentieth century. Part of this research was recently captured in The Washington Post. Professor Dhillon is also co-editor with Maddalena Marinari on a forthcoming special issue of The Journal of American Ethnic History which reconceptualizes the relationship between US citizenship and immigration over the course of the twentieth century. 

Professor Dhillon also consults on documentary and other film projects that center the history of immigration in the United States. She believes non-traditional forms of research and writing offer rich avenues for historical inquiry and knowledge production. 


Professor Dhillon’s work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Fulbright Program, American Historical Association, American Society of Legal History, and Library of Congress. She serves on the George E. Pozzetta Dissertation Award Committee with the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and the Standing Committee for the Annual Meeting for the American Society of Legal History. Professor Dhillon is also an Affiliate Scholar at the American Bar Foundation and the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University.