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date: 17 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This essay reviews the historical literature on Asian exclusion in the United States. By tracing its historiographical trajectory, it shows how interpretations of Asian exclusion have changed over time. It pays especially close attention to recent scholarship, which has revisited Asian exclusion by way of new legal history, critical race theory, and colonial and cultural studies. Inspired by the transnational and cultural turn in historical studies, and a growing interest in writing imperial histories of migration, this reappraisal has considerably revised our understanding of Asian exclusion. This essay considers how this wide-ranging reassessment of Asian exclusion has located new places to look for the origins of immigration restriction and border controls; teased out the multiple and varied work Asian exclusion has performed in reproducing race, gender, sexuality, and nation in the United States; and identified in Asian exclusion an important technology of U.S. statecraft and imperial rule.

Keywords: Asian exclusion, border enforcement, immigration restriction, U.S. imperialism, racism, state formation, immigration law

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