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Becoming yellow [electronic resource] : a short history of racial thinking /
Michael Keevak.
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2011.
description
viii, 219 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0691140316 (hardcover : acid-free paper), 9780691140315 (hardcover : acid-free paper)
format(s)
Book
More Details
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2011.
isbn
0691140316 (hardcover : acid-free paper)
9780691140315 (hardcover : acid-free paper)
restrictions
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
catalogue key
8837835
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Flap Copy
"All racial categories are constructed, but none so laboriously as the 'yellow' of East Asians. This learned and stimulating book ranges across a half-dozen centuries of writing to tell the story of East Asians' transformation from 'white' to 'yellow' (and many hues in between) and their homogenization as members of a 'Mongolian' race. Drawing on travelogues, medical texts, and works of geography, anthropology, and natural history, Keevak unveils the complex and surprising history of an idea that remains deeply ingrained in our image of Asia and Asians today. Becoming Yellow is a marvelous contribution to the history of racialist thinking."--David L. Howell, Harvard University " Becoming Yellow is an absorbing tale of how science was manipulated in quest of assigning a less-than-becoming shade to Asian peoples. Poring over several centuries of European accounts, Michael Keevak documents how the jaundiced views of the literati were by no means evenly applied and how scientific justifications of racial theory were colored more by contingent events than physical truths."--Michael Laffan, Princeton University "This book will make an indelible and enlightening mark in the fields of post-colonial, race, and cultural studies, and will attract an uncommonly diverse audience. It has a rightful place as part of the literary and historical scholarship that comprises the greater contemporary postcolonial project."--Don J. Wyatt, Middlebury College "Well-organized and engaging, this very interesting and singular work is a solid contribution to various fields and innovative in both its focus and approach. I cannot think of any other book that addresses the same subject that this one does."--Larissa Heinrich, University of California, San Diego
Flap Copy
"This book will make an indelible and enlightening mark in the fields of post-colonial, race, and cultural studies, and will attract an uncommonly diverse audience. It has a rightful place as part of the literary and historical scholarship that comprises the greater contemporary postcolonial project."--Don J. Wyatt, Middlebury College "Well-organized and engaging, this very interesting and singular work is a solid contribution to various fields and innovative in both its focus and approach. I cannot think of any other book that addresses the same subject that this one does."--Larissa Heinrich, University of California, San Diego
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2012-01-01:
Just how East Asians came to be regarded as "yellow" in the Western imagination is the focus of this monograph. In his broad-ranging study, Keevak (foreign languages, National Taiwan Univ.) examines Western writings in a number of different European languages, finding that many early accounts described the Chinese as being white. But subsequent attempts by naturalists to develop taxonomies for different peoples marked the beginning of change. In the late-18th century, when Johann Friedrich Blumenbach developed a racial category of Mongolian, this opened a path by which Asians came to be increasingly viewed as a yellow race linked to the Mongols. As Chinese and Japanese immigration occurred in the Americas in the 19th century, the fear of a "yellow peril" became more prevalent. Anthropologists shared in this type of thinking, and Western medicine participated in the racialization of East Asians by employing terms such as the Mongolian eye fold, the Mongolian spot, and Mongolism. Interestingly enough, in the 20th century, the Chinese saw identification with the yellow race as an emblem of pride without negative connotations. Illuminating study suitable for a general audience. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. F. Ng California State University, Fresno
Reviews
Review Quotes
Becoming Yellow is a fascinating read, partly due to its intriguing subject matter, partly due to the author's treatment of it. . . . Readers, . . . will profit much from Keevak's analysis of literary, scientific, and medical discourses. In particular, they will learn invaluable lessons about the mechanics of racial thinking and about how little seemingly scientific 'truths' are based on biological or empirical facts.
" Becoming Yellow is a fascinating read, partly due to its intriguing subject matter, partly due to the author's treatment of it. . . . Readers, . . . will profit much from Keevak's analysis of literary, scientific, and medical discourses. In particular, they will learn invaluable lessons about the mechanics of racial thinking and about how little seemingly scientific 'truths' are based on biological or empirical facts."-- Ralf Hertel, Anglistik
Becoming Yellow is not always an easy read, but Michael Keevak skillfully presents and examines a number of important yet highly contentious issues and terminologies on racial thinking. His book is thus full of sensible quotation marks and--understandably--the author's own qualifications regarding racial designations such as the use of 'surprising'. For those interested in the western history of racial thinking, this is a convincing introduction to the origin, construction and development of a remarkably persistent European stereotype of East Asia.
" Becoming Yellow is not always an easy read, but Michael Keevak skillfully presents and examines a number of important yet highly contentious issues and terminologies on racial thinking. His book is thus full of sensible quotation marks and--understandably--the author's own qualifications regarding racial designations such as the use of 'surprising'. For those interested in the western history of racial thinking, this is a convincing introduction to the origin, construction and development of a remarkably persistent European stereotype of East Asia."-- Tjalling Halbertsma, Asian Studies Review
"illuminating...
[I]lluminating.
"Illuminating . . ."-- Choice
Illuminating . . . -- Choice
Michael Keevak has given us a wonderful, even riveting, deep-historical account of how people in Asia (particularly East Asia) came to be seen as yellow. . . . [T]he book is a welcome and important addition to the growing literature on 'race' imaginaries, such as whiteness, blackness, and more. Readers will learn a whole lot, as I did, from Keevak's historical account . . . of the evolution of Western racism.
"Michael Keevak has given us a wonderful, even riveting, deep-historical account of how people in Asia (particularly East Asia) came to be seen as yellow. . . . [T]he book is a welcome and important addition to the growing literature on 'race' imaginaries, such as whiteness, blackness, and more. Readers will learn a whole lot, as I did, from Keevak's historical account . . . of the evolution of Western racism."-- Magnus Fiskesjo, Journal of World History
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, January 2012
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
Bowker Data Service Summary
Michael Keevak follows the development of perceptions about race and human difference. He indicates that the conceptual relationship between East Asians and yellow skin did not begin in Chinese or Western culture, but in anthropological and medical records that described variations in skin colour.
Main Description
In their earliest encounters with Asia, Europeans almost uniformly characterized the people of China and Japan as white. This was a means of describing their wealth and sophistication, their willingness to trade with the West, and their presumed capacity to become Christianized. But by the end of the seventeenth century the category of whiteness was reserved for Europeans only. When and how did Asians become "yellow" in the Western imagination? Looking at the history of racial thinking, Becoming Yellow explores the notion of yellowness and shows that this label originated not in early travel texts or objective descriptions, but in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scientific discourses on race. From the walls of an ancient Egyptian tomb, which depicted people of varying skin tones including yellow, to the phrase "yellow peril" at the beginning of the twentieth century in Europe and America, Michael Keevak follows the development of perceptions about race and human difference. He indicates that the conceptual relationship between East Asians and yellow skin did not begin in Chinese culture or Western readings of East Asian cultural symbols, but in anthropological and medical records that described variations in skin color. Eighteenth-century taxonomers such as Carl Linnaeus, as well as Victorian scientists and early anthropologists, assigned colors to all racial groups, and once East Asians were lumped with members of the Mongolian race, they began to be considered yellow. Demonstrating how a racial distinction took root in Europe and traveled internationally, Becoming Yellow weaves together multiple narratives to tell the complex history of a problematic term.
Main Description
In their earliest encounters with Asia, Europeans almost uniformly characterized the people of China and Japan as white. This was a means of describing their wealth and sophistication, their willingness to trade with the West, and their presumed capacity to become Christianized. But by the end of the seventeenth century the category of whiteness was reserved for Europeans only. When and how did Asians become "yellow" in the Western imagination? Looking at the history of racial thinking,Becoming Yellowexplores the notion of yellowness and shows that this label originated not in early travel texts or objective descriptions, but in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scientific discourses on race. From the walls of an ancient Egyptian tomb, which depicted people of varying skin tones including yellow, to the phrase "yellow peril" at the beginning of the twentieth century in Europe and America, Michael Keevak follows the development of perceptions about race and human difference. He indicates that the conceptual relationship between East Asians and yellow skin did not begin in Chinese culture or Western readings of East Asian cultural symbols, but in anthropological and medical records that described variations in skin color. Eighteenth-century taxonomers such as Carl Linnaeus, as well as Victorian scientists and early anthropologists, assigned colors to all racial groups, and once East Asians were lumped with members of the Mongolian race, they began to be considered yellow. Demonstrating how a racial distinction took root in Europe and traveled internationally,Becoming Yellowweaves together multiple narratives to tell the complex history of a problematic term.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction: No Longer White: The Nineteenth-Century Invention of Yellownessp. 1
Before They Were Yellow: East Asians in Early Travel and Missionary Reportsp. 23
Taxonomies of Yellow: Linnaeus, Blumenbach, and the Making of a ôMongolianö Race in the Eighteenth Centuryp. 43
Nineteenth-Century Anthropology and the Measurement of ôMongolianö Skin Colorp. 70
East Asian Bodies in Nineteenth-Century Medicine: The Mongolian Eye, the Mongolian Spot, and ôMongolismöp. 101
Yellow Peril: The Threat of a ôMongolianö Far East, 1895-1920p. 124
Notesp. 145
Works Citedp. 175
Indexp. 211
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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