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Part One: “Exclusion/Belonging,” traces the construction of the nineteenth-century Chinese immigrant laborer as the original Asiatic/Mongolian, a figure who was not-white but above all not-Black, a wage worker who was degraded but nonetheless categorically superior to the slave. If we consider the Chinese immigrant laborer in relation to the white worker, Chinese foreignness was a site of dispossession, persecution, and exclusion. But if we consider the Chinese immigrant laborer in relation to the slave, we discover that Chinese foreignness was also, paradoxically, a site of plenitude, standing, and belonging. The exclusion movement expelled the Chinese immigrant from the nation, but not from the Family of Man. The U.S. state developed its pattern of weaponizing the Asiatic against the Black struggle during this period, as explained here in a new interpretation of Yick Wo v. Hopkins and Plessy v. Ferguson. For their part, Chinese immigrants grasped the value of their not-Blackness and developed strategies to take advantage of it, from displacing freed people on plantations during Reconstruction to refusing to allow their children to attend “colored” schools in the Mississippi Delta in the interwar years.
Even if the trend of chinoiseries reached its peak in the eighteenth century, in Latin America it persisted and gained new overtones through Modernismo. While in Europe this was a strictly foreign aesthetic found in Asian luxury exports and artifacts mass-produced for a consumer audience, in the Americas it became a racial phenomenon as well. Together with consumer goods, Chinese laborers started migrating to the region, complicating orientalist impressions of China imported from Europe. This chapter reexamines characterizations of Modernismo’s Asian imaginaries as a mere aesthetics of evasion, and instead reads them as a political critique of Chinese labor. While it acknowledges the prominence of the cultural politics of orientalism in the movement’s transcultural imaginaries of chinoiserie, it shows that the portrayal of the China trade opens a discussion on the global division of labor, nineteenth-century migrations, and the desire over foreign bodies.
This chapter shows how nascent racially motivated imperialism led to the othering of the enslaved, both within the US as a tool of social control of labour, to justify immigration restrictions on so-called ‘coolies’, and also in order to position the nation alongside European powers in the colonial struggles for parts of the Middle East and Africa. The edges of the definition of slavery was fought over by those arguing that forced labour was the only valid way of eliciting productive labour from uncivilized natives.
Chapter 3 surveys the vast expansion, both in the numbers of migrants and in the range of destinations, of Chinese migration during the age of mass migration, processes driven in part by industrialization and imperialism. The chapter both traces the expansion of existing diasporic trajectories, such as migration from Shandong to Manchuria and the Hokkien diaspora in Southeast Asia, and introduces new diasporic trajectories, such as the Teochiu migrants to Thailand, Cantonese migrants to Australasia and the Americas, and Zhejiang migrants to Europe. The chapter also draws attention to diasporic trajectories made up of female migrants, to Shanghai and Singapore, representing the beginnings of the feminization of migration. The chapter then introduces institutions unique to the age of mass migration: treaty ports, indentured servitude and the “coolie” trade. The chapter argues that while the age of migration was the heyday of such Chinese institutions as native-place associations and brotherhoods, it also witnessed the emergence of new types of migration services. The chapter concludes with a third example of a Chinese diasporic community, this one made up of Teochiu farmers in a village on the Malay Peninsula.
Chapter six, “The Struggle Against Hookworm Disease,” examines the early campaigns of the Rockefeller Foundation to reduce transmission of the widespread helminthic infection. Launched in the southern United States and then extended southward in the western hemisphere and into the eastern hemisphere, the anti-hookworm campaigns became the very first global health initiative. Although the campaigns utilized chemical therapies to reduce the intestinal worm load, their primary focus was on changing defecation habits, to encourage better sanitation. The campaigns failed to meet their goals, underscoring the limitations of mass drug treatment and the difficulties of changing entrenched defecation practices and the use of human waste as fertilizer.
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