wk3ChineseExclusion

wk3ChineseExclusion - | 51 Chinese Exclusion Chinese...

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Unformatted text preview: | 51 Chinese Exclusion Chinese Exclusion, Photography, and the Development of U.S. Immigration Policy Anna Pegler-Gordon I n her fictionalized history of the Chinese in America, Maxine Hong Kingston describes how the Chinese immigrants who worked to build the transcontinental railroad were not included in the photograph com- memorating its completion in 1869. While the demons posed for photo- graphs, the China Men dispersed, Kingston writes. It was dangerous to stay. The Driving Out had begun. As Kingston suggests, many Chinese immi- grants who had found work on the railroads soon found themselves unem- ployed. Although they had never been fully welcome, they had been encour- aged to migrate by the promise of work in the United States as well as by social upheaval in China. More than ten thousand strong, Chinese laborers formed as much as 90 percent of the Central Pacific Railroad workforce. However, not one appeared in the photograph documenting the meeting of the rails at Promontory Point, Utah (fig. 1). This photograph is a graphic metaphor for the ways that the Chinese were excluded from the United States and the ways that their long-standing presence in this country has been erased. 1 However, the driving out was not only a process of erasure. After 1882, as most Chinese were excluded from the United States, the exclusion laws also heralded the introduction of identity documentation for the few Chinese who were exempt from exclusion. Elite Chinese diplomats and merchants, stu- dents and travelers, native-born U.S. citizens, some laborers, and some wives were exempted from exclusion laws, allowed to enter or remain in the United States. This essay will argue that rather than being erased, the exempt Chinese were more closely observed, documented, and photographed than any other immigrant group. Historians of immigration have long claimed that Chinese exclusion marked a new development in immigration policy as the first law to discriminate against a group of immigrants on the basis of race and class. In recent years, scholars have also drawn attention to the ways that Chinese immigration restrictions were central to the development of general immigration policy. Among oth- ers, Lucy Salyer has shown how Chinese challenges to exclusion shaped the | 52 American Quarterly | 53 Chinese Exclusion judicial review of immigration law, and Erika Lee has explored how the ad- ministration of exclusion was pivotal in the development of the United States as a gatekeeping nation. 2 The Chinese exclusion laws also mark another critical development: the formal emergence of visual regulation within immigration policy. From 1875 through the 1920s, as the federal government increased restrictions on immi- gration, it also expanded the use of visual regulation as a central component of immigration administration. This regulation took varied forms, ranging from photographic identification to medical inspections based on visual readings of immigrants bodies. Together, these intersecting practices increasingly privi-immigrants bodies....
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This note was uploaded on 09/15/2011 for the course AMST 10 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at UCSC.

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wk3ChineseExclusion - | 51 Chinese Exclusion Chinese...

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