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Racial Reconstruction: Black Inclusion, Chinese Exclusion, and the Fictions of Citizenship

April 5, 2016 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Edlie L. Wong, associate professor of English at the University of Maryland, will be at Bull’s Head Bookshop on Tuesday, April 5th at 3:30pm to share from her new book Racial Reconstruction: Black Inclusion, Chinese Exclusion, and the Fictions of Citizenship. This event is sponsored by the Sonja Haynes Stone Center at UNC.

The end of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade triggered wide-scale labor shortages across the U.S. and Caribbean. Planters looked to China as a source for labor replenishment, importing indentured laborers in what became known as “coolieism.” From heated Senate floor debates to Supreme Court test cases brought by Chinese activists, public anxieties over major shifts in the U.S. industrial landscape and class relations became displaced onto the figure of the Chinese labor immigrant who struggled for inclusion at a time when black freedmen were fighting to redefine citizenship.

“With impressive archival research, Racial Reconstruction traces the fascinating transnational history of U.S. racial formation in the aftermath of abolition and reconstruction. Exploring the legal discourse around Asian exclusion in relation to African American inclusion, Edlie L. Wong pushes our thinking and offers new insights about how Americans decide who does and does not belong as a citizen in the United States. —Gretchen Murphy, author of Shadowing the White Man’s Burden: U.S. Imperialism and the Problem of the Color Line

Racial Reconstruction demonstrates that U.S. racial formations should be studied in different registers and through comparative and transpacific approaches. It draws on political cartoons, immigration case files, plantation diaries, and sensationalized invasion fiction to explore the radical reconstruction of U.S. citizenship, race and labor relations, and imperial geopolitics that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act, America’s first racialized immigration ban. By charting the complex circulation of people, property, and print from the Pacific Rim to the Black Atlantic, Racial Reconstruction sheds new light on comparative racialization in America, and illuminates how slavery and Reconstruction influenced the histories of Chinese immigration to the West.

NYU Press: $28.00 (paperbook)

Edlie L. Wong is also the author of Neither Fugitive nor Free: Atlantic Slavery, Freedom Suits, and the Legal Culture of Travel and co-editor of George Lippard’s The Killers. Her work has appeared in American Literary History, Social Text, American Literature, and African American Review, in anthologies such as Oxford History of the Novel in English and American Literary Geographies, and online at openDemocracy. She lives in College Park, MD.

Bull’s Head Bookshop is located in UNC Student Stores on the campus of UNC-CH. All events at Bull’s Head are free and open to the public. Call 919-962-5060 for more details.


April 5, 2016
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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Bull’s Head Bookshop
Chapel Hill, NC United States + Google Map

The Carolina Asia Center supports diverse Asia-related events. However, CAC co-sponsorship of any talk, seminar, documentary screening, film screening, performance or celebration does not constitute endorsement of or agreement with the views presented therein. As an academic institution, we value diverse perspectives that promote dialogue and understanding.

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