Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America – Updated Edition (Politics and Society in Modern America) [Mae M. Ngai] on Mae M. Ngai. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. $ (cloth), ISBN. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. WITH A NEW FOREWORD BY THE AUTHOR MAE M. NGAI. Series: Politics and Society .

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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. 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. Ngai vigorously opposes this stereotype as it impossibble the existence of large numbers of working-class immigrants and undocumented workers or refugees.

However, the presence of photographs, a sign of everyday history, foreshadows a stronger combination between a top-down legal history, and a social history from the bottom up.

She uses Japanese internment camps as evidence of their lack of legal and social submects in the United States. Indeed, in the s, historians mainly wrote on immigration beforean era of open immigration from Europe and laissez-faire, or the period post when the national quota of origins was abolished and immigration from the Third World increased 1.

In his review in The New YorkerLouis Menard praises Ngai’s book for demonstrating how the categories of “legal” and “illegal” immigrants “are administrative constructions, always subject to change; they do not tell us anything about the desirability of the persons so constructed.

Selective enforcement by some states has manifested new and concerning developments in Americans long and ugly immigration history. Ngai confronts nhai many confounding issues that its hard to surmise which one is more egregious or most pressing than the next. This article possibly contains original research.


With a mixture of Japanese and American politics, culture camps celebrated both the anniversary of Lincoln and the Emperor, exemplifying the tension generated by patriotic ties both to the US and Japan. Lastly, she says that she does not want to resolve the problems of immigration policy, but rather to inform the reader of how flexible legislation and public opinion are. However, because of this colonial status Filipinos were able to migrate to the United States regardless nyai quotas or exclusionary acts.


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Depending sybjects whom you ask, border patrol is underfunded, lackadaisical or immaterial. Filipino migrant laborers worked mostly in the Pacific Northwest and California on summer contracts.

Later on, this liberal thought impossile exemplified by John F. Ngai’s analysis is based on extensive archival research, including previously unstudied records of the U. In this sense, the essay would have also benefited from a reflection on gender. This article needs additional citations for verification.

Insightful historical perspective on the issues of migration, politics, and second-class citizenship status.

“Mae Ngai’s Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Moder” by Kerry Abrams

Chinese women, seen as presumptive prostitutes and Chinese males portrayed as sexually deviant since the s, are not even mentioned. Modern conservatives have proved to be true to this historical form. Please help improve this impossoble by adding citations to reliable sources. Nevertheless, is a seminal date because it leads to the establishment of numerical limits and the institution of a global racial hierarchy that excludes certain categories mainly Chinese, Japanese, South Indians.

The chapter ends by talking about how Mexicans and other Americans south of the United States were left unaffected by this law which, as their agricultural labor was still necessary, deemed them “white”. Many Filipinos faced Anti-Filipino attacks, and institutionalized disregard for their safety and well-being. If illegality is a label that may change depending on the various laws on immigration, Ngai points subjecst four categories systematically built to link race with illegality in the United States: However, within the s Filipinos replaced Japanese farmers who now faced quotas because of the immigration act of and found employment within the service sector on the West Coast.


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Mae M. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America

Filipinos faced wage discrimination. The renunciation by Japanese of their American citizenship is a real crisis of citizenship and probably one mas the darkest episodes in the history of civil rights in the United States since the Jim Crow laws.

This article relies too much on references to primary sources. See for example the very recent film Soy Ne Mae Ngai offers a close reading of the legal regime of restriction that commenced in the s–its statutory architecture, judicial genealogies, administrative enforcement, differential treatment of European and non-European migrants, and long-term effects.

This act imposed an immigration quota to the British colonies in the Caribbean in order to limit the immigration of Black people ngsi the U. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

Certainly not the most pressing of the issue Ngai addresses, is the paradoxical nature of US border controls. She also notes that the growth in size of Asian and Latino makes the black-white prism of American society more complex.

Remember me on this computer. In part one, Ngai begins with discussing the subjecs of immigration restriction in the s by particularly focusing on border patrol and immigration policy which she argues results in a changing discourse about race.

Indeed, the illegal alien becomes, by immigration laws, an “impossible subject”, defined precisely by the illegality of their existence: No eBook available Amazon. References to this book Between Two Empires: All of these, but primarily the court rulings and government documents, are utilized by Ngai in constructing her argument. The author was a labor-union organizer before becoming Professor of history and Asian American Studies at Columbia Implssible.