HISTORICAL FORMATIONS



TEXTS


  • Jeff Yamashita, "Relational Racialization of Settler Colonial White Supremacy: A Historical Case Study of Japanese American World War II soldiers in the U.S. South." Relational Formations of Race.
  • Moon-Ho Jung, "Outlawing 'Coolies': Race, Nation, and Empire in the Age of Emancipation," American Quarterly 3 (2005).
  • Robin Kelley, "Roaring from the East: Third World Dreaming" in Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. (Beacon, 2002).
  • Roderick Ferguson, "The Relational Revolutions of Anti-Racist Formations," in Relational Formations of Race.
  • Kawai, Yuko. (2003). "Revisiting the 1966 Model Minority Myth: A Narrative Criticism of its Textual Origins." Kaleidoscope 2, 50-69. 


INTRODUCTION & PROBLEMATIC


The five readings for this week provide a historical understanding of how race-making projects concerning Chinese laborers who constituted the "coolie" trade, Japanese American WWII soldiers invested in the production of a Hawaiian national identity, anti-racist Black leftist radicals in the U.S., or "Asians" as model minorities have emerged as part global nation-making processes. The authors for this week contend that to more fully understand processes of U.S. nation-making and state formation requires awareness of global variations in racial capitalism across multiple centuries. Yamashita's research pushes back against historical accounts that fail to account for how infrastructures of racism, like anti-Japanese violence in the U.S. mainland and in the territory of Hawai'i, may differ across space and place but are ultimately connected and rooted in the U.S. projects of settler colonialism and anti-black apartheid. Jung teaches us that racial classifications like "coolie" are better understood as "a conglomeration of racial imaginings," and thus allows for capacious interrogation of other racialized terms used to maintain the economic order, as done by Yuko in their analysis of the derivation of "model minority" as a mainstream framework supporting colorblind notions of social equity. Lastly, Ferguson points to women and queers of color while Kelley points to Maoists as significant actors involved in the (re)formation of U.S. nationalist anti-racist movements like the black freedom movement. Together these readings reveal how Afro-Asian formations of race, from the 16th century to the 20th century, have relied on contradictory yet at times congruent investments in the projects of nation-making and economic accumulation.


KEY INTERVENTIONS


  • The system of chattel slavery in the U.S. had direct influence on how both government and public actors understood the imperatives of immigration restrictions, labor control, and U.S. involvement in global markets. Immigration restrictions like the Chinese Exclusion act but also the less known 1962 Anti-"Coolie" Act signed by President Lincoln were directly informed by the system of chattel slavery and the U.S. imperial project of nation-making.
  • Intersectional and relational studies of oppression are necessary to better understand how restrictive notions of gender and sexuality have limited anti-racist, anti-colonial political movements. Anti-racist formations throughout 20th-century U.S. history must be interrogated for their political limitations grounded in nationalistic differentiation.
  • Colorblindness as a formidable ideology within U.S. anti-racist politics can be better understood by examining the individualistic (re: neoliberal) style of narrating racialized violence and discrimination.
  • Notions of freedom and slavery in the U.S. have been informed not only by the enslavement of Black people but also by the emergent imperial markets exchanges of people and capital.
  • Domestic disputes concerning the production of racialized laborers provided justification for proponents of U.S. empire by connecting the abolition of slavery abroad to the image of freedom in the U.S. states.
  • Arguments against exploitative and inhumane labor economies in the U.S. were at times contradictory and could belong project different moral standings while simultaneously sustaining U.S. imperialism.
  • A critical understanding of Afro-Asian formations of race necessitates the awareness of the mutually constitutive nature of revolutionary political movements in the domestic and international spheres of U.S. geopolitics.

PRIMARY DOCUMENTS/MULTIMEDIA


RAPPORTEUR REPORT

Examples of takeaways from small group discussions that focused on individual readings:

  • For Ferguson, women of color feminism and queer of color critique responded to the masculinist nature of nationalist movements that reproduced systems of power they claimed to deconstruct. Ideas of liberation that are rooted in the nation-state inherently reproduce the logic of colonialism, and they invite women to participate only in a limited way where their belonging is contingent on their gendered participation in the national project. Ferguson is arguing for relational formations of race that complete transcend the national, offering up examples of the critical associations produced in work like This Bridge Called My Back and a transnational feminist network among Afro-German feminists. Ferguson offers counter-narratives to nationalist ideas of liberation.
  • Kelley employs a lateralized geometry of relationality between Chinese Revolutionists and Black radicals. He deviates away from white supremacy as the source of power, and rather imagines a transnational relationality, underscoring possibilities of alliances borne out of a collective endeavor. This paradigm locates power as originating amongst the oppressed; it views relation from below as opposed to relation from above. Unpacking this alliance, we understand how the conjecture of the Chinese Cultural Revolution fashioned a site onto which Black radicals could project their aspirations, or horizons of revolutionary imagination, back into the United States. Transnational parallels enabled Black radicals to theorize socialism and imperialism as mutually exclusive-and socialism as necessarily internationalist-through this supposed example of a non-imperial, non-white/European socialism. This Black international was indicative of an emergent Third World relationality that underlined experiences of colonialism as it pertained to the Black freedom struggle.