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Asian Indian Exclusion in the Americas: A Case Study of Inter-American and Transnational American Studies

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Abstract:

Beginning in the 1980s and accelerating dramatically after the United States' crackdown on immigration following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, American debates over immigration evolved into striking transnational phenomena, connecting with larger debates over migration in Europe, Australia, North and South America. These discussions over immigration policy have resulted in new forms of transnational policy coordination and international cooperation (i.e. the "North American security perimeter" proposed by President Bush in 2001). These contemporary trends have historical roots that have been largely overlooked by scholars. One hundred years ago, the alleged threat that Asian migration posed in the Americas sparked an unparalleled transnational conversation about race, migration, and national security that had significant repercussions for both migrants and for national and international policy.

This paper addresses the ways in which national concerns about immigration and race became transnational during the era of Asian exclusion in the Americas. It focuses specifically on the transnational character of the exclusion movements targeting Asian Indians in the U.S. and Canada and the transnational strategies Asian Indians used to resist exclusion, including launching a North American base for the Indian nationalist movement.

Both Asian Indians and anti-Asian exclusionists migrated and organized across the U.S.-Canadian border. Debates about Asian immigration reverberated between San Francisco/Seattle/Washington, DC and Vancouver/Ottowa. Anti-Asian violence also transcended the border. On September 4, 1907, a riot forced the Asian Indian residents of Bellingham, WA to flee northward. Three days later, another riot occurred in Vancouver targeting Chinese, Japanese, and Asian Indian residents.

Canadian and American efforts to restrict Indian immigration were interconnected, though certainly not exact replicas of each other. Canada effectively restricted Indian immigration with its Continuous Journey Act in 1908. At the same time, exclusion of Indians in the U.S. relied first upon rigid enforcement of existing immigration laws and then later on the Immigration Act of 1917 which barred Indians under the so-called Asiatic Barred Zone. After immigration restriction became legalized in both countries, Canadian and U.S. officials worked together to end the illegal immigration of Asian Indians across the northern border and to spy on suspected Indian nationalists.

Asian Indians in the United States and Canada actively resisted these efforts to exclude them. Their mutual aid networks reached from San Francisco to Vancouver. At the same time, the exclusion movements, the failure of the British government to offer any protection to its Indian subjects in the Americas, and the daily discrimination faced by Indians fueled their participation in Indian nationalist movements.

By illuminating the transnational repercussions of domestic racialization and immigration policies, this paper is particularly relevant to this year's conference theme, especially the question of how American Studies can simultaneously provide an arena for international linkages while paying attention to domestic affairs. It explores the theoretical frameworks and challenges of actually doing inter-American Studies without duplicating or reinforcing an intellectual imperialism that continues to privilege the United States. Finally, it reminds us that many of today's transnational phenomena have deep historical roots.
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Name: American Studies Association
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http://www.theasa.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p113495_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Lee, Erika. "Asian Indian Exclusion in the Americas: A Case Study of Inter-American and Transnational American Studies" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association, <Not Available>. 2013-12-16 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p113495_index.html>

APA Citation:

Lee, E. "Asian Indian Exclusion in the Americas: A Case Study of Inter-American and Transnational American Studies" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association <Not Available>. 2013-12-16 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p113495_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: Beginning in the 1980s and accelerating dramatically after the United States' crackdown on immigration following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, American debates over immigration evolved into striking transnational phenomena, connecting with larger debates over migration in Europe, Australia, North and South America. These discussions over immigration policy have resulted in new forms of transnational policy coordination and international cooperation (i.e. the "North American security perimeter" proposed by President Bush in 2001). These contemporary trends have historical roots that have been largely overlooked by scholars. One hundred years ago, the alleged threat that Asian migration posed in the Americas sparked an unparalleled transnational conversation about race, migration, and national security that had significant repercussions for both migrants and for national and international policy.

This paper addresses the ways in which national concerns about immigration and race became transnational during the era of Asian exclusion in the Americas. It focuses specifically on the transnational character of the exclusion movements targeting Asian Indians in the U.S. and Canada and the transnational strategies Asian Indians used to resist exclusion, including launching a North American base for the Indian nationalist movement.

Both Asian Indians and anti-Asian exclusionists migrated and organized across the U.S.-Canadian border. Debates about Asian immigration reverberated between San Francisco/Seattle/Washington, DC and Vancouver/Ottowa. Anti-Asian violence also transcended the border. On September 4, 1907, a riot forced the Asian Indian residents of Bellingham, WA to flee northward. Three days later, another riot occurred in Vancouver targeting Chinese, Japanese, and Asian Indian residents.

Canadian and American efforts to restrict Indian immigration were interconnected, though certainly not exact replicas of each other. Canada effectively restricted Indian immigration with its Continuous Journey Act in 1908. At the same time, exclusion of Indians in the U.S. relied first upon rigid enforcement of existing immigration laws and then later on the Immigration Act of 1917 which barred Indians under the so-called Asiatic Barred Zone. After immigration restriction became legalized in both countries, Canadian and U.S. officials worked together to end the illegal immigration of Asian Indians across the northern border and to spy on suspected Indian nationalists.

Asian Indians in the United States and Canada actively resisted these efforts to exclude them. Their mutual aid networks reached from San Francisco to Vancouver. At the same time, the exclusion movements, the failure of the British government to offer any protection to its Indian subjects in the Americas, and the daily discrimination faced by Indians fueled their participation in Indian nationalist movements.

By illuminating the transnational repercussions of domestic racialization and immigration policies, this paper is particularly relevant to this year's conference theme, especially the question of how American Studies can simultaneously provide an arena for international linkages while paying attention to domestic affairs. It explores the theoretical frameworks and challenges of actually doing inter-American Studies without duplicating or reinforcing an intellectual imperialism that continues to privilege the United States. Finally, it reminds us that many of today's transnational phenomena have deep historical roots.

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