Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Subverting Exclusion

Subverting Exclusion: Transpacific Encounters with Race, Caste, and Borders, 1885-1928

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Subverting Exclusion
    Book Description:

    The Japanese immigrants who arrived in the North American West in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included people with historical ties to Japan's outcaste communities. In the only English-language book on the subject, Andrea Geiger examines the history of these and other Japanese immigrants in the United States and Canada and their encounters with two separate cultures of exclusion, one based in caste and the other in race.

    Geiger reveals that the experiences of Japanese immigrants in North America were shaped in part by attitudes rooted in Japan's formal status system,mibunsei,decades after it was formally abolished. In the North American West, however, the immigrants' understanding of social status as caste-based collided with American and Canadian perceptions of status as primarily race-based. Geiger shows how the lingering influence of Japan's strict status system affected immigrants' perceptions and understandings of race in North America and informed their strategic responses to two increasingly complex systems of race-based exclusionary law and policy.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17797-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    after learning that the united states had passed legislation barring further labor immigration from Japan in 1924, an anonymous Japanese immigrant living “at the base of the Rockies” wrote:

    Boku wa nihon ni oite wa shinheimin de aru.

    Amerika ni atte wa japu to iu shinheimin de aru.

    In Japan, I am an outcaste.

    In America, I am an outcaste called “Jap.”¹

    The author’s equation of racial discrimination in North America with the caste-based prejudice he had experienced in Japan suggests the extent to which culturally specific perceptions of difference rooted in Japanese history provided an interpretive framework for the...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Caste, Status, Mibun
    (pp. 15-35)

    In 1905, as the meiji era was drawing to a close, Japanese novelist Shimazaki Tōson published a novel that raised the question of whether emigration to the North American West offered those descended from outcaste groups in Japan a chance to leave behind the stigma still associated with their status. Natsume Sōseki, one of Japan’s foremost novelists of the twentieth century, later called Shimazaki’s work the “only genuine novel of the Meiji era.”Hakai(The Broken Commandment) immediately became a best seller and has never been out of print.¹ InHakai, Shimazaki tells the story of a schoolteacher who had...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Emigration from Meiji Japan
    (pp. 36-52)

    In early 1908, just as the Gentlemen’s Agreements into which Japan had entered with both the United States and Canada were about to go into effect, a new question about the veracity of the information provided on Japanese passports threatened to upset the delicate diplomatic balance that Japan had achieved by agreeing to restrict labor emigration to North America to forestall passage of anti-Japanese legislation. Now growing irritation on the part of U.S. immigration officials regarding discrepancies between occupations listed on the passports of Japanese labor immigrants and the occupations they named as their intended occupations when they arrived brought...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Negotiating Status and Contesting Race in North America
    (pp. 53-71)

    When nakahara hadataro, a young labor emigrant from the coalmining region in northern Fukuoka prefecture, obtained his passport permitting him to travel to North America in 1906, he also received an official notice from the governor of his prefecture admonishing him not to forget that he was a subject of the Japanese empire and not to leave anyone in any foreign nation to which he traveled with a “shameful impression” of Japan. His purpose in “traveling ten thousandriacross the rough waves to a distant foreign land,” said the notice, was to work hard and to earn enough to...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Confronting White Racism
    (pp. 72-98)

    The responses of japanese labor immigrants to coal mines and other aspects of the North American West reflected traditional attitudes combined with the values of a westernizing Japan. In this context, the United States and Canada represented modernity—nations where the goals that Japan had set for itself were already realized in terms of both technological development and social ideals. Viewed in this light, the two countries appeared to offer Japanese an alternative to the social and economic constraints that circumscribed their lives at home. The alternative seemed to be reflected in the very landscape itself. Compared to the narrow...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The U.S.-Canada Border
    (pp. 99-123)

    during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, legislators in both the United States and Canada turned their attention to the development of legal measures intended to restrict Asian immigration. Japanese migrants, careful students of exclusionary law and policy, found ways to challenge or avoid the growing webs of legal constraints. Some turned to the courts to contest unjust laws, and others resorted to direct defiance of discriminatory provisions.¹ Still others invoked their privilege under international law to travel across the territory of other civilized nations, forcing the governments of both countries to allow border crossings they would have preferred...

  11. CHAPTER SIX The U.S.-Mexico Border
    (pp. 124-137)

    The executive order of march 14, 1907, which redirected some Japanese migrants north to Canada, encouraged others to go south to Mexico. Although the Meiji government had begun to restrict the number of passports issued for Canada and the United States as early as 1900, it made no parallel effort during the first years of the twentieth century to restrict the number issued for other North American destinations.¹ As Meiji government restrictions on emigration to Canada and the United States tightened further in the wake of the Gentlemen’s Agreements, emigration to Mexico offered many Japanese emigrants the only chance they...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Debating the Contours of Citizenship
    (pp. 138-160)

    The efforts of both canada and the united states to create the territories defined by their borders as racialized spaces that excluded Japanese and other Asians focused on not only regulating their entry through the use of immigration law but passing other exclusionary laws intended to limit their meaningful participation in U.S. and Canadian society. Key among these constraints were laws intended to restrict access to the full rights of citizenship—laws that directly raised questions about what qualified an individual to become a U.S. citizen or a British subject. Although the full rights of citizenship were denied to Japanese...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Reframing Community and Policing Marriage
    (pp. 161-179)

    In may 1928, theJapanese-American Courierin Seattle published a frontpage article entitled “Forget Caste and Status According to Occupation.”¹ Given the race-based constraints that limited the employment opportunities available to second-generation Japanese (nisei) living in the area, K. Hirade, a local Japanese American merchant, implored issei parents not to insist that their children restrict their studies to preparing for white-collar jobs. He stopped short of urging the issei to allow their children to become shoemakers or shoe repairers, but he did say that Seattle needed workers besides “teachers, engineers, doctors and businessmen.” The double burden of race and caste...

  14. CHAPTER NINE The Rhetoric of Homogeneity
    (pp. 180-188)

    In the face of continued exclusion from full citizenship and social acceptance in both the United States and Canada, Japanese immigrants increasingly relied on a critique of white racism that involved characterizing their own communities as devoid of race-based divides like those that plagued North American societies. By insisting on the purported homogeneity of nikkei communities, nikkeijin were able to define themselves as morally superior to those who excluded them, even if their position in the racial hierarchies that ordered social relations in the United States and Canada was low. This rebuke of white racism also worked its way into...

    (pp. 189-195)

    In august 1965 the Japanese American Research Project asked the Japanese American labor leader Karl Yoneda to comment on a series of questions proposed for the Issei Oral History Survey, intended to capture memories of the prewar period. Yoneda said that several “important and vital” questions had been omitted, including questions about whether the first-generation immigrants had used illegal or extralegal means to enter the United States, such as “Did you have a passport? Did you jump from a ship? Did you enter from Mexico illegally?” Yoneda also urged that “Eta or Shinheimin” be included as the respondents’ “social class”...

  16. TIMELINE: Key Moments in Japanese Immigration History in North America to 1928
    (pp. 196-198)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 199-276)
    (pp. 277-278)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 279-286)