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A Race So DifferentPerformance and Law in Asian America$
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Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814738399

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814738399.001.0001

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“That May Be Japanese Law, but Not in My Country”

“That May Be Japanese Law, but Not in My Country”

Madame Butterfly and the Problem of Law

(p.27) 1 “That May Be Japanese Law, but Not in My Country”
A Race So Different

Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson

NYU Press

This chapter examines Madama Butterfly—a tragic story of a Japanese bride in nineteenth-century Japan who is married to and ultimately abandoned by her US American husband, ending in the young bride's suicide. Due to its iconic and canonical status, Madama Butterfly has contributed significantly to the shaping of cultural stereotypes of Asian difference and Asian femininity. It influences the writing of American law, and functions as a vessel for the transmission of knowledge produced about Asian racial difference in US law. The remainder of the chapter argues that the legal management of Asian and Asian American difference is not simply the historical background against which the various versions of Madame Butterfly were written but that the Butterfly narratives themselves function as agents for the law's codification and transmission.

Keywords:   Madama Butterfly, American law, Asian racial difference, legal management, Asian American difference

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