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Race for Citizenship

Race for Citizenship: Black Orientalism and Asian Uplift from Pre-Emancipation to Neoliberal America

Helen Heran Jun
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Race for Citizenship
    Book Description:

    Helen Heran Jun explores how the history of U.S. citizenshiphas positioned Asian Americans and African Americans in interlocking socio-political relationships since the mid nineteenth century. Rejecting the conventional emphasis on 'inter-racial prejudice,' Jun demonstrates how a politics of inclusion has constituted a racial Other within Asian American and African American discourses of national identity.Race for Citizenship examines three salient moments when African American and Asian American citizenship become acutely visible as related crises: the 'Negro Problem' and the 'Yellow Question' in the mid- to late 19th century; World War II-era questions around race, loyalty, and national identity in the context of internment and Jim Crow segregation; and post-Civil Rights discourses of disenfranchisement and national belonging under globalization. Taking up a range of cultural texts - the 19th century black press, the writings of black feminist Anna Julia Cooper, Asian American novels, African American and Asian American commercial film and documentary - Jun does not seek to document signs of cross-racial identification, but instead demonstrates how the logic of citizenship compels racialized subjects to produce developmental narratives of inclusion in the effort to achieve political, economic, and social incorporation. Race for Citizenship provides a new model of comparative race studies by situating contemporary questions of differential racial formations within a long genealogy of anti-racist discourse constrained by liberal notions of inclusion.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4332-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    When vast areas in the city of Los Angeles were set ablaze in the spring of 1992, I was in Northern California approaching the end of my undergraduate education. As a major in ethnic studies and English, I had learned critical histories of Asian Americans, African Americans, Chicanos, and Native Americans. We recognized the distinctiveness of the various cultural groupings, but we also understood that these processes and formations of racialization were related through dominant ideologies of white supremacy. Despite our different histories, we assumed (and not without reason) that racism bound us all together. While our educational training offered...

  5. PART 1

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 13-14)

      Citizenship was an unfolding and highly contested political institution in mid-nineteenth-century America as contentious battles were being waged over the place of blacks, Native Americans, Chinese, and white ethnic immigrants. Although there were relatively few Chinese immigrants in the United States, recent studies have elaborated on the specific dynamic between the Chinese and Negro question in terms of how issues of race, labor, and citizenship revolved around a multivalent racial axis. Historians such as Najia Aairm-Heriot and Moon-Ho Jung have documented the ways in which the specter of Chinese “coolie” labor mediated national debates on free labor and citizenship. According...

    • 1 The Press for Inclusion Nineteenth-Century Black Citizenship and the Anti-Chinese Movement
      (pp. 15-32)

      In his testimony before the Senate in 1878, a white minister argues for Chinese exclusion, his Orientalist construction of the Chinese alien generating its contrasting Other in the figure of the properly developed, black, Christianized, former slave.¹What is most disturbing about Rev. S. V. Blakeslee’s otherwise predictable discourse of the unassimilable Oriental is his representation of chattel slavery as a necessary civilizing institution that “successfully” transforms African heathens into modern American citizens. Twenty years later, Supreme Court Justice John M. Harlan also constructed a black/Chinese racial tandem in the case ofPlessy v. Ferguson(1896) when he challenged the Court’s...

    • 2 “When and Where I Enter …” Orientalism in Anna Julia Cooper’s Narratives of Modern Black Womanhood
      (pp. 33-48)

      Anna Julia Cooper’s essay “Womanhood: A Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of a Race” was originally delivered as a speech in 1886 to a congregation of black ministers in Washington, D.C.¹ Cooper is perhaps best known for the black feminist formulation that has become central to paradigms in ethnic studies and women’s studies: “Only the BLACK WOMAN can say, ‘when and where I enter … then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.’”² In the late nineteenth century, Cooper’s arguments and critical discourse positioned black women’s education and development as fundamental to the possibilities of black...

  6. PART 2

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 49-50)

      Previous chapters examined the ways in which discourses of black citizenship from the mid- to late nineteenth century deployed American Orientalism to negotiate the vulnerable political status of black Americans. Part 2 inverts this analytical trajectory to examine how processes of black racialization are variously represented in Asian American novels that produce narratives of national belonging during the World War II period. This shift to fiction enables us to examine how Asian American national identity could be imagined or narrativized when the notion of the Asian as an American citizen was both paradoxical and legally negated. We can understand World...

    • 3 Blackness, Manhood, and the Aftermath of Internment in John Okada’s No-No Boy (1957)
      (pp. 51-74)

      John Okada’s novel,No-No Boy(1957), is a postwar maladjustment story of a young Japanese American’s struggle to reincorporate into the national citizenry in the aftermath of his internment and incarceration as an alien racial enemy.¹ In the novel’s opening, thenisei² protagonist, Ichiro, is walking home after spending two years in federal prison and two years in an internment camp when he has a hostile encounter with a group of young black men, who derisively call him out as a “Jap.” More than just a commentary on the “sad irony” of interracial hostility, the preceding passage comments on the...

    • 4 Becoming Korean American Blackface and Gendered Racialization in Ronyoung Kim’s Clay Walls (1987)
      (pp. 75-94)

      Kim Ronyoung’s semiautobiographical novelClay Walls(1986) reconstructs the experiences of a Korean immigrant family living in the multiracial ghettos of Central Los Angeles between 1920 and 1945. This particular scene of Korean American teenagers performing “blackness” situates Asian Americans in a complex and contradictory relation to American culture. The mother’s reference to the popularAmos ’n Andyshow foregrounds the centrality of blackface in U.S. popular culture, avidly consumed since the nineteenth century by white ethnic immigrants as part of the process of becoming American subjects. In this regard, the Korean immigrant family seems similarly located in relation to...

  7. PART 3

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 95-98)

      In part 2, questions of Asian American national identity and the expansion of black civil rights were posed in the context of an expanding wartime economy in the first half of the twentieth century. The last two chapters of this project describe the contours of Asian American and African American discourses of national belonging under the transformed political economic landscape of U.S. deindustrialization and globalization in a post–civil rights era. In this political context of full “equal rights,” the inclusion of racial difference has become an important dimension of U.S. neoliberalism, and therefore racialized dispossession cannot be adequately captured...

    • 5 Black Surplus in the Pacific Century Ownership and Dispossession in the Hood Film
      (pp. 99-122)

      The accelerated mobility of capital, goods, and bodies has become a defining feature of contemporary discourses of globalization. In the United States, formal racial equality, global shifts in modes of production, and unprecedented levels of immigration from Asia and Latin America distinguish the post-1965 experience of race. In contrast to the nineteenth century, in this age of heightened capital mobility Asia now figures as the site of capitalism’s future.¹ At the same time, however, the much-vaunted mobilities of the post–civil rights era are contemporaneous with the intensification of mass displacement (deindustrialization, gentrification, incarceration, etc.), which is particularly acute given...

    • 6 Asian Americans in the Age of Neoliberalism Human Capital and Bad Choices in a.k.a. Don Bonus (1995) and Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)
      (pp. 123-148)

      In most any critical discussion, contemporary discourses of Asian American socioeconomic “success” are regarded as a disciplinary construction deployed by white America against the black poor. Vijay Prashad paraphrases W. E. B. Du Bois’s well-known line regarding white America’s construction of a “Negro problem,” to ask Asian Americans in the new millennium, South Asians in particular, “How does it feel to be a solution”? Prashad’s text echoes earlier Asian Americanists in the late 1960s when he exhorts Asian America to refuse to be used by white supremacy as “a weapon against black folk” and to cultivate progressive solidarities with other...

  8. Afterword
    (pp. 149-156)

    ThroughoutRace for Citizenship, I have endeavored to delineate the relational processes by which blacks and Asians in the United States have been differently racialized since the nineteenth century. We have seen how these groups have been racially defined by the ways they have been located across time in relation to the shifting terrains of citizenship, the labor market, and U.S. national culture. I opened this history with the 1992 Los Angeles uprisings as a contemporary flashpoint intended to highlight the complexity of these differential racial formations and how investments in citizenship constrained our capacity to engage that complexity. It...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 157-184)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 185-192)
  11. Index
    (pp. 193-197)
  12. About the Author
    (pp. 198-198)