Catalogue


Impossible subjects [electronic resource] : illegal aliens and the making of modern America /
Mae M. Ngai.
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2004.
description
xx, 377 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0691074712 (print)
format(s)
Book
More Details
author
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2004.
isbn
0691074712 (print)
restrictions
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
catalogue key
7953503
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [357]-368) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2004-10-01:
This study examines how our "nation of immigrants" constructed the entity of the "illegal alien" out of a mixture of racism, nationalism, and corporate greed. Expertly blending documentary sources, interviews, the press, and published analyses, Ngai (Univ. of Chicago) exposes the problems created by the sixty-year (1924-65) longevity of the immigration policies of the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924. She also shows how post-9/11 attitudes toward Muslims carry on this tendency. From the 1885 policies to prevent Chinese (and later Japanese) immigration, to the addition of quotas based on national origins in Johnson-Reed, US immigration policy increasingly moved toward exclusion and even expulsion. In 1952, Communists and other political radicals were added to the list until 1965, when the Hart-Celler Act liberalized racial and national restrictions, retaining numerical limits. The large numbers of immigrants who either remained in the country or entered it without authorization were thus illegal. Ngai pulls no punches, arguing that in most cases these illegal people were stigmatized by negative racial stereotypes and branded as dangerous. This work complements and expands Roger Daniels's Guarding the Golden Door (CH, Oct'04). ^BSumming Up: Essential. Best suited for upper-division students and above, it belongs in every library and should be referenced in every ethnic studies course. E. L. Turk emerita, Indiana University East
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Ngai has produced a valuable reinterpretation of twentieth-century American immigration history, one that will push other scholars of race, immigration, and policy in new directions as well."-- Charlotte Brooks, Journal of American History
"Ngai pulls no punches, arguing that in most cases . . . illegal [immigrants] were stigmatized by negative racial stereotypes and branded as dangerous. . . . [I]t belongs in every library and should be referenced in every ethnic studies course."-- Choice
"Ngai's book is a stunning piece of scholarship. . . . [F]or background reading of 'illegal immigration' that takes a broader view, this is an outstanding book."-- David M. Reimers, International History Review
"This superb book by historian Mae Ngai addresses the emergence of the legal and social category of 'illegal immigrant' in the United States. . . . Ngai addresses the subject . . . in a variety of historical contexts and each casts a different light on their deeply ambiguous condition."-- Linda Bosniak, Journal of International Migration and Integration
Winner of the 2005 Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize, American Studies Association Winner of the 2005 Frederick Jackson Turner Award, Organization of American Historians Honorable Mention for the 2005 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Co-Winner of the 2004 History Book Award, Association for Asian American Studies Co-Winner of the 2004 First Book Prize, Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Winner of the 2004 Littleton-Griswold Prize, American Historical Association One of Choice s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2004 Winner of the 2004 Theodore Saloutos Book Award, Immigration and Ethnic History Society
"May Impossible Subjects indeed lead to bold changes? Ngai creates that possibility, through altering our vision of immigration history, in showing us the constructed and contingent nature of its legal regulation. Impossible Subjects is essential reading."-- Leti Volpp, Michigan Law Review
"Moving beyond the telos of immigrant settlement, assimilation, and citizenship and the myth of 'immigrant America,' Mae Ngai's Impossible Subjects conceptualizes immigration not as a site for assessing the acceptability of the immigrants, but as a site for understanding the racialized economic, cultural, and political foundations of the United States."-- Yen Le Espiritu, Western Historical Quarterly
"Mae Ngai's book . . . offers a fascinating reinterpretation and critique of the United States as a mythicized nation of immigrants.' Ngai demonstrates the critical role that colonialism, foreign policy considerations and racial politics played in shaping U.S. immigration and national identity. . . . Ngai's book is an extraordinary contribution to U.S. immigration history and a stimulating read."-- Dr. Alison Pennington, Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law
"[A] deeply stimulating work. . . . Ngai's undeniable premise--as pertinent today as ever--is that the lawfully regulated part of our immigration system is only the tip of the iceberg. Even as we have allowed legal immigrants, mostly from Europe, through the front door, we have always permitted others, generally people of color, to slip in the back gate to do essential jobs."-- Tamar Jacoby, Los Angeles Times Book Review
" Impossible Subjects offers an important contribution to U.S. histories of race, citizenship, and immigration. This stunning history of U.S. immigration policy dispels the liberal rhetoric that underlies popular notions of immigrant America, as it establishes the designation of Asians and Mexicans as perpetual racial others. Everyone in the field of race and immigration should read this thought provoking book."-- Rhacel Salazar Parreas, American Journal of Sociology
This item was reviewed in:
Los Angeles Times, March 2004
Choice, October 2004
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Unpaid Annotation
"While vernacular discussion of the so-called 'illegal alien' in the United States has generally fixed on the alien side of the equation, Mae Ngai's luminous new book focuses rather on the illegal--the bureaucratic and ideological machinery within legislatures and the courts--that has created a very particular kind of pariah group. Impossible subjects is a beautifully executed and important contribution: judicious yet impassioned, crisply written, eye-opening, and at moments fully devastating. All of which is to say, brilliant. Would that such a story need not be told."--Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University, author of "Barbarian Virtues: the United states Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917""'Impossible Subjects' makes an outstanding contribution to U.S. histories of race and citizenship. Ngai's excellent discussions of the figure of the illegal alien, and laws regarding immigration and citizenship, demonstrate the history of U.S. citizenship as an institution that produces racial differences. This history explains why struggles over race, immigration, and citizenship continue today."--Lisa Lowe, UC San Diego, author of "Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics""In 'Impossible Subjects' Mae Ngai has written a stunning history of U.S. immigration policy and practice in that often forgotten period, 1924-1965. Employing rich archival evidence and case studies, Ngai marvelously shows how immigration law was used as a tool to fashion American racial policy particularly toward Asians and Mexicans though the differential employment of concepts such as "illegal aliens," "national origins," and "racial ineligibility to citizenship." For those weaned onthe liberal rhetoric of an immigrant America this will be a most eye-opening read."--Ramon A. Gutierrez, author, "When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1848.""At the c
Bowker Data Service Summary
'Illegal Aliens and Alien Citizens' traces the origins of the 'illegal alien' in American law and society. It explains why and how illegal migration became the central problem in US immigration policy.
Main Description
This book traces the origins of the "illegal alien" in American law and society, explaining why and how illegal migration became the central problem in U.S. immigration policy--a process that profoundly shaped ideas and practices about citizenship, race, and state authority in the twentieth century. Mae Ngai offers a close reading of the legal regime of restriction that commenced in the 1920s--its statutory architecture, judicial genealogies, administrative enforcement, differential treatment of European and non-European migrants, and long-term effects. In well-drawn historical portraits, Ngai peoples her study with the Filipinos, Mexicans, Japanese, and Chinese who comprised, variously, illegal aliens, alien citizens, colonial subjects, and imported contract workers. She shows that immigration restriction, particularly national-origin and numerical quotas, re-mapped the nation both by creating new categories of racial difference and by emphasizing as never before the nation's contiguous land borders and their patrol. This yielded the "illegal alien," a new legal and political subject whose inclusion in the nation was a social reality but a legal impossibility--a subject without rights and excluded from citizenship. Questions of fundamental legal status created new challenges for liberal democratic society and have directly informed the politics of multiculturalism and national belonging in our time. Ngai's analysis is based on extensive archival research, including previously unstudied records of the U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Naturalization Service. Contributing to American history, legal history, and ethnic studies, Impossible Subjects is a major reconsideration of U.S. immigration in the twentieth century.
Back Cover Copy
"While vernacular discussion of the so-called 'illegal alien' in the United States has generally fixed on the alien side of the equation, Mae Ngai's luminous new book focuses rather on the illegal--the bureaucratic and ideological machinery within legislatures and the courts--that has created a very particular kind of pariah group. Impossible subjects is a beautifully executed and important contribution: judicious yet impassioned, crisply written, eye-opening, and at moments fully devastating. All of which is to say, brilliant. Would that such a story need not be told."-- Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University, author of Barbarian Virtues: the United states Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917 "In Impossible Subjects' Mae Ngai has written a stunning history of U.S. immigration policy and practice in that often forgotten period, 1924-1965. Employing rich archival evidence and case studies, Ngai marvelously shows how immigration law was used as a tool to fashion American racial policy particularly toward Asians and Mexicans though the differential employment of concepts such as "illegal aliens," "national origins," and "racial ineligibility to citizenship". For those weaned on the liberal rhetoric of an immigrant America this will be a most eye-opening read."-- Ramn A. Gutirrez, author, When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1848. " Impossible Subjects' makes an outstanding contribution to U.S. histories of race and citizenship. Ngai's excellent discussions of the figure of the illegal alien, and laws regarding immigration and citizenship, demonstrate the history of U.S. citizenship as an institution that produces racial differences. This history explains why struggles over race, immigration, and citizenship continue today."-- Lisa Lowe, UC San Diego, author of Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics "At the cutting edge of the new interdisciplinary and global immigration history, Ngai unpacks the place of 'illegal aliens' in the construction of modern American society and nationality. Theoretically nuanced, empirically rich, and culturally sensitive, the book offers a powerful vista of how the core meaning of 'American' was shaped by those--Filipinos, Mexicans, Chinese,and Japanese--held in liminal status by the law."-- David Abraham, Professor of Law, University of Miami
Table of Contents
List of Figures and Illustrationsp. xi
List of Tablesp. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Note on Language and Terminologyp. xix
Introduction Illegal Aliens: A Problem of Law and Historyp. 1
The Regime of Quotas and Papersp. 15
The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 and the Reconstruction of Race in Immigration Lawp. 21
Deportation Policy and the Making and Unmaking of Illegal Aliensp. 56
Migrants at the Margins of Law and Nationp. 91
From Colonial Subject to Undesirable Alien: Filipino Migration in the Invisible Empirep. 96
Braceros, "Wetbacks," and the National Boundaries of Classp. 127
War, Nationalism, and Alien Citizenshipp. 167
The World War II Internment of Japanese Americans and the Citizenship Renunciation Casesp. 175
The Cold War Chinese Immigration Crisis and the Confession Casesp. 202
Pluralism and Nationalism in Post-World War II Immigration Reformp. 225
The Liberal Critique and Reform of Immigration Policyp. 227
Epiloguep. 265
Appendixp. 271
Notesp. 275
Archival and Other Primary Sourcesp. 357
Indexp. 369
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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