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Racial ReconstructionBlack Inclusion, Chinese Exclusion, and the Fictions of Citizenship$
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Edlie Wong

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9781479868001

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479868001.001.0001

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American Futures Past

American Futures Past

The Counterfactual Histories of Chinese Invasion

(p.124) 3 American Futures Past
Racial Reconstruction

Edlie L. Wong

NYU Press

By the final decades of the nineteenth century, the notion of an Asiatic threat was well established in U.S. culture, in part through “Yellow Peril” propaganda, a product of the Pacific Coast anti-Chinese movement. Chapter 3 reads sensationalized Chinese invasion narratives alongside the key legal and political contexts that gave them narrative shape to tease out the racial fictions and counterfactual imaginings of this popular subgenre. From legal discourse to the forgotten novels of Pierton Dooner, Robert Woltor, and Arthur Dudley Vinton, the invasion trope dominated U.S.-China relations. The Janus-faced depictions of Chinese labor migrants as abject coolie-slaves and villainous agents of foreign aggression embodied the contradictions of American industrial modernity. In imagining the tragic consequences of unfettered Chinese immigration, the subgenre absorbed and refracted white anxieties over the end of western expansion—American Manifest Destiny—and the changing composition of the national polity after black citizenship and enfranchisement.

Keywords:   counterfactual history, Arthur Dudley Vinton, speculative fiction, yellow peril, immigration law, Chinese exclusion, race war, slavery, settler colonialism, U.S. vs. Chae Chan Ping

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