Date: Thu, 7 Jul 1994 15:58:41 EDT

Can anyone help Rick Halpern with this interesting query?

Please note that he is asking about NATURALIZATION. SW

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Can anyone point me to a _concise_ summary of naturalization legislation and procedures for the period 1900-1925? I am working on a piece comparing immigration policy in the US and Britain and need to extend the American case study beyond immigration law. I understand that up to 1906 naturalization was a matter handled by the courts and that there was tremendous variation in procedure. I also understand that at a certain period only those deemed "white" could be naturalized. As my article deals with the racialization of migrant labor, this last point may be vital. Any assistance will be greatly appreciated.

Rick Halpern, Dept of History, University College London

Date: Fri, 8 Jul 1994 11:59:19 EDT

Here are three very fine responses to Rick Halpern's query on

race and naturalization. Many thanx to Eileen Boris, Mae Ngai

and Greg Kealey. SW

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From: Eileen Boris <>

This is for Rick:

The best article that I know on this subject is Virginia Sapiro, "Women, Citizenship and Nationality: Immigration and Naturalization Policies in the United States," POLITICS AND SOCIETY, 13 (1984): 1-26. This piece focuses on the Cable Act. I don't know of any extensive study of the type you are askingfor and would myself be very interested in what others come up with, since I'm revising a piece called "The Racialized Gendered State: Conceptions of Citizenship in the United States" and need to figure out this link between racial definitions and immigration policy, especially restriction of citizenship, more precisely. I don't know if EP Hutchinson, LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF AMERICAN IMMIGRATION POLICY, 1798-1965 (Philadelphia) would be helpful in pinpointing shifts of naturalization policy. I didn't find Fuchs' recent book useful on these points.

Eileen Boris

Howard Univ.

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From: Mae Ngai <>

To Rick Halpern:

E.P. Hutchinson's _Legislative History of American Immigration Policy, 1798-1965_ (Philadelphia, 1981) is encylopediaic and easy to consult.

Naturalization is also discussed in a concise volume by Milton Konvitz, _Civil Rights in Immigration_ (Ithaca, 1946). Though rather old, it still stands as a critique of the law for the period that interests you.

The Naturalization law of 1790 provided naturalized citizenship to "free white" persons; after the Civil War, naturalization was extended to "persons of African descent." The Chinese exclusion acts (1882 etc.) declared Chinese "ineligible for [naturalized] citizenship" in addition to barring all immigration of laborers. During the 1920's, the Supreme Court ruled in two cases against Asians seeking naturalization. In _Ozawa_, the Court ruled that a person of Japanese descent who was raised and educated in California was ineligible because the 1790 law was meant for "caucasians." A few years later, an Indian resident of Seattle appealed to the Court with the argument that, as an Aryan, he was a caucasian. In _Thind_, the Court reversed itself and said that Congress didn't know about scientific (sic) races (sic) in 1790 and that it had really meant "white" as it is "popularly" understood, thereby introducing thoroughly subjective criteria into policy. In _Thind,_ the Court also agonized over supposed racial differences between northern Europeans and eastern and southern Europeans.

The language of these decisions must be read to appreciate the intellectual contortions the Court went through to justify race. Race was not eliminated from naturalization policy until the 1940's and 50's (for Chinese in 1943; Filipinos in 1946; Japanese in 1952). The Supreme Court cases are discussed by Konvitz, see also Jeff Lesser, "Always Outsiders: Asians, Naturalization, and the Supreme Court," in _Amerasia Journal_ #12 (1985-86).

Naturalization also has a political dimension insofar as the justice dept. has historically tried to denaturalize naturalized citizens whom they deemed subversive, particularly labor radicals. This was a tactic used against communists during the 1950s; I'm not sure if denaturalization was used against the IWW during the 1910s although they were certainly subject to exclusion and deportation based on explicitly political grounds. See William Preston, Jr., _Aliens and Dissenters, Federal Suppression of Radicals, 1903-1933_ (Cambridge, Mass., 1963)

ps: i'm also interested in immigration, race, and labor, and would be interested in your article when it is completed.

Mae Ngai

History Dept.

Columbia University


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From: Gregory Kealey <>

I realize that Rick was not looking for a Canadian angle but perhaps for further work he'd like to know about Barbara Roberts, Whence They Came: Deportation from Canada, 1900-1935. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press 1988 which is an excellent study (of among Many things) the political uses of deportation against the left.

Greg Kealey

Date: Sat, 9 Jul 1994 10:27:17 EDT

Thanx to Mae Ngai for these additional sources and her comments. SW

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Race and citizenship (though not naturalization) are discussed by Priscilla Wald in "Terms of Assimilation" in _Cultures of United States Imperialism_, Amy Kaplan and Donald Pease, eds. (Durham 1993). This is an insightful discussion of racial constructions of citizenship in two Supreme Court decisions, _Cherokee Nation_ v. _Georgia_ and _Dred Scott_.

Race figures in immigration policy mainly in the history of Chinese exclusion. the Chinese were excluded (and, after exclusion was repealed in 1943, admitted) not on the basis of country of origin, which was the foundation of immigration policy from 1924 to 1965, but on the basis of "race" (that is, exclusion and, later, quotas, applied to all Chinese in the world, not just to persons from China). It may be also argued that the lack of civil rights afforded to aliens in deportation hearings and the extraordinarily broad discretionary authority wielded by the INS through much of the 20th century (denial of due process, no judicial review, INS exemption from the administrative procedures act after WWII) are rooted in Supreme Court decisions from the 19th century in Chinese cases, which were particularly harsh because the Chinese were considered a debased group.

See Sucheng Chan, ed., _Entry Denied_ (Philadelphia 1991). A recent source that includes in the appendix the texts of the exclusion laws and court rulings (including _Ozawa_ and _Thind_ mentioned in the last posting) is Bill Ong Hing's _Making and Remaking Asian America Through Immigration Policy, 1850-1990_ (Stanford 1993).

Mae Ngai

Dept. of History

Columbia Univ.


Date: Sun, 10 Jul 1994 09:12:53 EDT

Rudy Vecoli's note on his work is cross-posted from our sister list H-Ethnic which cross-posted Rick Halpern's naturalization query. Since, frankly, this is a subject which I know little about, I thought I would begin with the dictionary definition, which I added here.

Seth Wigderson

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Rick Halpern,

See my article, "Immigration, Naturalization, and the Constitution," American Political Science Association, NEWS FOR TEACHERS OF POLITICAL SCIENCE (Summer 1986), No. 50, 8=9-15; reprinted in STUDI EMIGRAZIONE (Rome), 24 (March 1987), 75-100.

Rudy Vecoli

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1: to introduce into common use or into the vernacular

2: to bring into conformity with nature

3: to confer the rights of a national on; esp: to admit to citizenship

4: to cause (as a plant) to become established as if native

~ vi

:to become established as if native

* nat-u-ral-ization \,nach-(e-)re-le-'za^--shen\ n

Date: Mon, 11 Jul 1994 08:48:04 EDT

Rick Halpern has been good enough to send us

a copy of the abstract of the paper which recently generated

such an interesting discussion on the list. Please feel free

to send your comments to the entire H-labor list, or if you

prefer just to Rick at <ucrahex@UCL.AC.UK>

Fraternally, Seth Wigderson H-labor moderator

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Many thanks to those of you that have responded to my query about naturalization procedures. Our moderator, Seth Widgerson, thought it would be a good idea if I posted an abstract of the piece upon which I am working. Hopefully this will prompt a more sustained discussion. I should note that this is a collaborative effort with two sociologists- Bob Carter of Worcester College and Marci Green of the University of Wolverhampton. All comments, however critical, will be welcome and I'll do my best to field queries.

"Immigration Policy and the Racialisation of Migrant Labour: The

Construction of National Identities in the United States and Britain"

Bob Carter (Worcester)

Marci Green (Wolverhampton)

Rick Halpern (London)


By focusing upon immigration legislation, this paper explores the role of governments in the racialisation of national identities and the construction of unfree wage labour.

It treats as problematic rather than given the notions of nation, national identity, citizenship, and race. Essentially it argues that all these terms refer to `imagined communities,' to borrow Benedict Anderson's phrase, that are constructed, contested, policed and requiring constant refurbishment. This is clearly seen in the role played by governments through immigration and nationality legislation in defining who belongs to the nation, who is entitled to citizenship, who is to labour where and under what conditions.

By examining two case studies-the United States between 1900 and 1925, and Britain between 1948 and 1971 -- we demonstrate how these abstract concepts assume specific and concrete historical forms. Empirical evidence is drawn, on the American side, from Congressional debates over the 1917, 1921 and 1924 immigration acts. On the British side, we utilise cabinet and parliamentary discussion of the 1948 Nationality Act and the Commonwealth immigration bills of the 1960s. In both cases the reconstitution of national identifies was articulated through concepts of `race' in which colour operated as a key signifier of difference. Through immigration and nationality laws, governments and administrations ranked human populations into hierarchies of assimilability, in which some groups were regarded as more `likely to fit in' than others. This process of ranking people on the basis of allegedly fixed and largely immutable characteristics is what we describe, following Robert Miles, by the term `racialisation.'

By racialising definitions of citizenship, governments animate and legitimate popular notions of `who belongs.' This authorises ideological practices articulated around ideas of `race' and national identity variously expressed as racist behaviour and discriminatory conduct that directly shape the conditions under which racialised workers sell their labour power. When workers' pay, type of job, promotion prospects or working conditions are predicated upon assumed `race' characteristics, then we argue that racism functions as a relation of production. Racialised workers who face restrictions on the sale of their labour power, although able to enter the labour market, change employers, bid for promotion, are in fact _unfree_ wage labourers-that is, racialised relations of production limit their capacity to compete for jobs, determine the wages they receive and constrain their access to skills and training.

By way of conclusion, this paper also suggests that racialised notions of `belonging' constitute a possible narrative of the contemporary world, ordering and rendering intelligible the confusing and inchoate experiences of modernity.

Rick Halpern

Department of History

University College London

Date: Wed, 13 Jul 1994 00:24:31 EDT

Here are responses to Rick Halpern's thesis from Tom Mitchell, Mel Dubofsky and Mae Ngai, thanx to all.

[I assume that most participants are familiar with Stephen

Jay Gould's Mismeasure of Man.] SW

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Such policies also produce a racialised state. Is there any particular reason that the abstract does not make reference to the legislative activity here as an aspect of state formation. As William Rosenberg notes in the current issue of Social History (British) "as the economy and social order are relationally `subject' to the forms and values of the state,...these relational processes themselves inscribe values onto `the state'...". Rosenberg's article is "Social Mediation and State Construction(s), in Revolutionary Russia,"Social History, Volume 19, No.2, May 1994, pp. 169-188.

Tom Mitchell


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Rick and his Brit colleagues seem eager to "bring the state back in" to the issue of constructing race, nationality, and labor markets. I might suggest that particularly in the case of the US, c. 1900-1925, they examine in addition to the congressional debates over immigration legislation the social scientific literature on races and nationalities. Social scientists like John R. Commons, Jeremiah Jenks, William and Charlton Ogburn, and W. Jett Lauck, among others, served on federal commissions that investigated immigration, labor, and indus-trial relations (look especially at Dillingham Commission reports for construc-tion of race and nationality). Look at Commons' (in)famous book on races and nationalities, and also Isaac Hourwich's response to the Dillinghamton Commi-ssion, IMMIGRATION AND LABOR. One might argue that academics and respectable culture constructed the categories of race and nationality that congress (the state) subsequently enacted into law.

Mel Dubofsky

Melvyn Dubofsky <DUBOF@BINGVMB>

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Rick Halpern's abstract correctly poses as problematic and not given notions of nation, national identity, citizenship, and race. In the United States, the role that race has played in the construction of nation and national identity (and their legal expressions in state and citizenship) must be considered carefully.

I'm not sure that the Congressional debates of 1917, 1921, and 1924 over immigration restriction resulted, as Rick's abstract states, in a "reconstitution of national identities (that) were articulated through concepts of 'race,' in which colour operated as a key signifier of difference." Certainly those debates were characterized by nativist arguments that used racial language (although the opposition to immigration from southern and eastern Europe was as much religious as it was racial). But if nativism triumphed by passing restrictionist legislation in 1924, it did not redefine citizenship based on race.

The 1924 law was based on national origins, not "race" or "color." If anything, the 1924 law helped speed the consolidation of a historical trend that constructed a "white race" in which _all_ immigrants of European origin could claim membership and which equated "white" with "American." This trend is implicit in the widespread efforts to "Americanize" European immigrants by social reformers and corporations during 1910s and 1920s and was explicitly acknowledged by the Supreme Court in _Thind_ (1923).

African Americans and the Chinese are missing from the 1920s debates because both groups had already long been designated as unassimilable "races" and denied the benefits of citizenship, the former by Jim Crow segregation and the latter by official exclusion. (Immigration from other Asian countries was excluded in the 1917 and 1924 acts. It is noteworthy that Congress _excluded_ Asians but _restricted_ southern and eastern Europeans).

I haven't seen Rick's article, so I'm not sure how his argument of a "racialization of migrant labor" is applied to the U.S. during the 1920s. But it would seem important to place the immigration restrictionism of the 20s in the context of this larger process of racial differentiation in the early 20th century construction of the American "nationality," in which all Europeans became "white" and "American" and non-whites were socially and legally excluded from "belonging." I might also add that herein lies the distinction made by sociologists between "ethnicity" (an identity based on national origin that can be subjectively altered by the owner) and "race" (an identity based on immutable physical traits).

see John Higham,_Strangers in the Land, Patterns of Nativism 1865-1925_, second ed. Rutgers, 1988 (1955), still an excellent account of the 1917-1925 legislative debate; see also David Roediger,_Wages of Whiteness_ ,Verso 1991, on how Irish workers recast themselves as whites during the 19th century.

Another dimension to this issue, of course, is the role that organized labor played in the racial constructions of nationality, citizenship, and class. The AFL championed Chinese exclusion during the 1870s and 80s, and immigration restriction during the 1920s. See Gwendolyn Mink, _Old Labor and New Immigrants_, Cornell 1986. An important primary source is John R. Commons's _Race and Immigrants in America_, New York: McMillan, 1920.

Mae Ngai

Dept. of History

Columbia Univ.

New York City


Date: Thu, 14 Jul 1994 12:08:18 EDT

Thanx to Vincent Roscigno for this post. SW

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The immigration act of 1924 was based on racial exclusion, although perhaps not as blatently as the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Immigration Act of 1924 placed quotas on groups, disproportionately restricting the influx of southern and eastern europeans, Japanese, and Jews from eastern europe. These quotas remained relatively untouched until the 1950s and 1960s.

Stanley Lieberson's (1980) book, A Piece of the Pie: Black and White Immigrants Since 1980 (U of California Press) discusses these considerations in some detail. What I found interesting about this particular piece of legislation is that biological arguments were used when Congress was discussing passing the Act, there was expert testimony from social scientists who, using standardized tests, argued that the continued influx of particular groups would lead to the "mongrelization of the white race".

I hope this helps. (???)


Vinnie Roscigno

Box 8107

Department of Sociology

North Carolina State University

Raleigh, N.C. 27695-8107


Date: Fri, 15 Jul 1994 15:20:15 EDT

Thanx to Jack Hammond, Andy Neather and Chris Suggs for

continuing this interesting discussion. SW

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I have a memory from a long-ago reading of William Whyte, Street Corner Society. I do not have the book at hand to check so be forewarned about the fallibility of memory.

Whyte's Italian-American informants in the North End of Boston in the 1930s refer to thgemselves and other European ethnic groups (presumably in particular Irish Americans) as "races." As far as I remember Whyte himself does not; he only quotes others using the term.


Jack Hammond e-mail:

Sociology Department voice: 212-663-1358

Hunter College fax: 212-772-5645

New York, New York 10021 USA *+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+

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I'd agree with Seth's point on the relationship between race and what we would today probably call nationality. At least in terms of labor movement tactics, most of the AFL leadership and a lot of rank-and-filers, to judge by surviving correspondence, up to the 1920s tended to view many "white" immigrants as racially inferior in some sense. While Chinese and other Asian immigrants, and African-Americans, often tended to be viewed as even less acceptable in the ranks of organized labor, one comes across plenty of remarks that indicate that many Anglo unionists though that Russians, Italians or middle-easterners were racially unsuited to the democratic (or "republican") principles of unionism, and by extension, the United States. Perhaps the most fascinating and difficult problem if we problematize the notion of "whiteness" in this way is figuring out when such European immigrants "became white"-when they themselves accepted that constructed identity and all the political baggage that went with that. On this, see David Roediger's highly suggestive essay on "white ethnics" in his *Towards the Aboliton of Whiteness* (Verso, 1994). There's also an excellent article by Robert Orsi on the construction of whiteness in Italian Harlem in a 1993 (?)_ issue of *American Quarterly* (I think there's a cite for it in the above Roediger essay).

I'll second Rick Halpern's comments about the usefulness of the net-this has been an interesting exchange. But what's so bad about sophisticated procrastination?

Andy Neather

Duke University

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Because a similar discussion is going on on H-Amstdy, I just posted a comment there about these two early 20th-c. sources of scientific racism. The books might be relevant to the questions surrounding the construction of race: Lathrop Stoddard's *The Rising Tide of Color*, New York: Chs. Scribner's Sons, 1920 and John Moffat Mecklin's *Democracy and Race Friction*, New York: Macmillan, 1921.

Chris Suggs, CUNY


Date: Mon, 18 Jul 1994 18:40:17 -0500

1) Most things are real, not socially "constructed." 2) bringing the state back in, just when the fallacies of this theory become increasingly apparent, doesn't seem like a good idea. Theda Skocpol, having ridiculed the Marxists for thinking that capitalists manipulated the state, wants us to believe that academics, like Commons, were able to do so. Each of these approaches to the past seem like false roads to me.

Brian Gratton

Department of History

Arizona State University

Tempe, AZ 85287-2501

602-965-4463 Message: 965-5778

FAX: 602-965-0310



Date: Tue, 19 Jul 1994 12:27:11 -0500

[Kenny Mostern <> writes:]

The big problem with the posts on the definition of race by Ngai, Widgerson and Halpern is that thay are trying to place every ethnicity into a rigid white/non-white binary that didn't exist for the racial scientists themselves. Racial "science" at the turn of the century was not merely concerned with the description/codification of Anglo/Northern European superiority and everyone else's inferiority; it was concerned with establishing a pecking order in which one could, by looking at an accurate chart, determine for what labor act Syrians were preferable to Filipinos, and where East Asians and Arabs ranked against each other in "IQ"-given already that they were both inferior to so-called Anglos and superior to so-called Hottentots. (There's a remarkable chart in Bodnar's *Lives of Their Own* to this effect.)

My point is that racial ideology has never been either/or-white or nonwhite. If it was it would be that much easier to fight. It has been a continuum in which popular and scientific belief could unite at a given moment in favor of one "inferior" group just as it could unite against another. That's why, in 1994, it is not inconsistent to argue that in the popular imagination East Asians are both "people of color"-i.e., "racially" distinct from "white" people-and preferable (in workplaces, as fashion models, as people who can assimilate) to the most unassimilable others, people of African descent.

Kenny Mostern

UC-Berkeley Ethnic Studies Graduate Group

Date: Tue, 19 Jul 1994 18:31:34 EDT

The Race and Nation discussion continues to generate interesting

posts. Thanx to Mae Ngai, Peter Campbell and Brian Gratton. SW

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I would like to address what has appeared to be some difference of opinion in recent postings on this subject and pose a question for further discussion.

Rick Halpern's original query, and subsequent abstract, spoke of race, immigration, and naturalization in terms of law and the state. Some have addressed the question of "bringing the state back in" on matters of immigration and the "racialization of the state," while many other comments on the issue have been much broader in scope, addressing popular notions of race, academic theories, pseudo-science, etc. In my postings I always made a distinction between popular and academic views and the formal pronouncements of the state, i.e. legislation and court rulings. Of course there is no brick wall between the two, and popular discourse and the law influence each other, but there seems to be a distinction worth making, especially if we are trying to understand the state. I certainly agree that during the early 20th century popular and academic notions about race and nationality were a "murky mixture," to use Seth Widgerson's phrase, but I would still contend that the national origins quotas established by Immigration Act of 1924 were not racial categories. I think Congress was actually quite careful to write the law in such a way as to not be explicitly founded on race.

Similarly, in response to Seth's question about the designation of Asians as nationalities or races, while Chinese were considered a race, by virtue of their exclusion and later immigration not being tied to a country but defined by a blood quantum, other Asians were excluded on the basis of their country of origin. The "barred zone" provision of the 1917 immigration act enumerated those countries from which immigration was prohibited (India, Afghanistan, etc. etc.) Congress singled out the Chinese as a race I think because the Chinese had extensive outmigration; racially-explicit exclusion was needed to forestall Chinese immigration from Hong Kong (a British territory) and Latin America.

The implications for this discussion have to do with the role played by the law in the social construction of race. Andy Neather pinpointed a key question arising from the problematizing of "whiteness"-when and how did diverse European immigrants "become white" in America? My previous postings were meant to suggest that the 1924 law and the supreme court rulings on naturalization during the 1920's might actually have served, rather than hindered, that process, not to deny the existence of various racial theories about Europeans in currency at the time. Perhaps in making this distinction I have overly de- emphasized the interconnectedness that is necessarily involved. Thus I'd like to ask if anyone would care to comment on how they see the relationship between the law and culture in the process of creating, altering, and legitimizing constructs of nationality and race. Is anyone familiar with criticial legal theory and its offshoot critical race theory? Is it useful for historical analysis?

Mae Ngai

Dept. of History

Columbia University


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Seth: Just to muddy the waters on the race and nation question. You will find in the Western Clarion, the paper of the Socialist Party of Canada in the early 20th century, approving references to the class consciousness of east European workers, and biting attacks on the lack of class consciousness in Anglo-Saxon workers. Some members of the SPC believed that east European workers, because they had experienced more state repression, were less likely than Anglo-Saxons to be taken in by the shibboleths of bourgeois democracy. In effect, east European workers-and Finns-were generally more class conscious for reasons to do with historical experience, not race or nation. In other words, race and nation do not always determine the way workers think.

peter campbell <CAMPBELP@QUCDN.QueensU.CA>

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1) Most things are real, not socially "constructed." 2) bringing the state back in, just when the fallacies of this theory become increasingly apparent, doesn't seem like a good idea. Theda Skocpol, having ridiculed the Marxists for thinking that capitalists manipulated the state, wants us to believe that academics, like Commons, were able to do so. Each of these approaches to the past seem like false roads to me.

Brian Gratton

Department of History

Arizona State University

Tempe, AZ 85287-2501

602-965-4463 Message: 965-5778

FAX: 602-965-0310



Date: Mon, 25 Jul 1994 08:56:53 EDT

These items came in or were forwarded while I was on the road and I wanted to assemble them properly. Thanx to the submitters. I might add that Mark Pittenger has written on race, Darwin and turn-of-the-century socialists. His articles include Imagining Genocide in the Progressive Era: the Socialist Science Fiction of George Allen England (American Studies, 1994, v.35, n1, spring, p.91 [8]), as well as The Great Evasion: religion and science in the socialism of Edmond Kelly (Journal of American Culture, 1991, v.14, n1, spring p.13 [6]). He also has a piece in Radical History from a few years ago, but the on-line databases available to me from home do not include that austere publication.

The following posts are from Tom Mitchell as well as two which are cross-posted from H-Ethnic by Mae Ngai. They are a bit more contemporary, but I thought they might be interesting.

Seth Wigderson, H-Labor moderator

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While this certainly is tangential to the discussion on race and nation I think it worthwhile to note that Darwiniam naturalistic notions shaped not only views of race but also social class and gender and in so doing influenced the development of immigration policy in Canada at least. Here I am referring to the notion that labouring paupers sent to Canada were a threat to the social purity of the nation and carried with them a congenital dispostion to crime. In the case of working class women, tendencies to atavistic violence were even more pronounced. At least that was the theory. There is some evidence to suggest that such views were widespread in Western Canada at the turn of the century and influenced both the development of immigration policy and the administration of criminal justice. For those interested in an illustration of this see "`Blood With the Taint of Cain'":Immigrant Labouring Children, Manitoba Politics, and the Execution of Emily Hilda Blake," Journal of Canadian Studies, Volume 28, No. 4, Winter 1993-94.

Tom Mitchell,


Cross-Posted from H-Ethnic

[Russell A Kazal <> writes:]

My sense of what I've read in this area is that "New Immigrants" and their children (Poles, Italians and other Southeastern European immigrants) get redefined as "white" during and (in a sense) *by* World War II. Gary Gerstle has a fascinating article on this: "The Working Class Goes to War," _Mid-America: An Historical Review_ 75 (October 1993). He argues that these groups came to feel accepted by the ("old stock") nation during the war, but that this redefinition into the category of "American" was simultaneously a redefinition into the category of "white." And since this new "American" identity was hinged on being "not-black," Southeastern Europeans and their children ended up accentuating their "whiteness" in the 1940s by stressing their separation from African Americans; hence, to an extent, the housing/race riots described by Arnold Hirschman (in Chicago) and Thomas Sugrue (in Detroit). I would add that I think the racial dimension extends beyond white ethnics being redefined in opposition to African Americans; the pervasive anti-Asian (specifically anti-Japanese) racism of the war years in the United States (as described by John Dower in _War Without Mercy_) looks to me like another vehicle by which Southeastern Europeans could be transformed into "white" (that is, not-Asian). Anyway, that's my $0.02 worth.

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Cross-posted from H-Ethnic [Rudy Vecoli writes:]

Thank you, John, for your excellent critique of the mindless use of "racial categories" as if they correspond (ed) to the social and cultural reality of American society. These categories were (are) invented for political purposes; they were so used in the past and are in the present. The particular formulation we are saddled with was articulated in 1977 in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's DIRECTIVE NO. 15: RACE AND ETHNIC STANDARDS FOR FEDERAL STATISTICS AND ADMINISTRATIVE REPORTING which established the following categories for compliance purposes: White, not of Hispanic origin; Black, not of Hispanic origin; Hispanic, regardless of race; American Indian or Alasakan Native; and Asian or Pacific Islander. These categories, of course, have no basis in anthropology, ethnology, or history, egregiously mixing "racial", cultural, and geographic criteria, and lumping together ethnic groups with quite disparate cultures and histories. Yet this quinquepartite of the American population has not only become the basis for governmental and private sector policies relating to such matters as employment, admissions, etc., but for what passes for scholarly discourse regarding race and ethnicity in America.

I share the view that race and ethnicity are cultural constructs or inventions. However, I do not subscribe to the notion that they are simply ideological formulations, although, heaven knows, they are susceptible to being ideologized and politicized. Ethnicity (and I view race as being subsumed within this more encompassing concept) is based on a subjective state of group identity and affiliation which in turn derives from the realities of history, culture, and human experience. The ruling castes (themselves embodying particular ethnicities) in authoritarian regimes may seek to impose categories-which use "racial" (body shapes, ancestry, skin color,etc.) or "cultural" (religion, language, nationality, etc.) markers-upon populations for purposes of exploitation, social control, or ethnic cleansing (and may even succeed in persuading their victims on the legitmacy of such categories), but certainly one of the basic rights in a democratic society is ethnic self-determination. Efforts to force all persons to conform to the Procrustean bed of imposed racial/ethnic categories are, I avow, inherently undemocratic and inimical to a truly pluralistic society.

I urge those of you who share these views to communicate them to Sally Katzen, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget, which is currently reviewing the racial and ethnic categories established in 1977 (see the piece originally in the NEW YORK TIMES by Steven A. Holmes, "Diversifying with the times," reprinted in STAR TRIBUNE (Minneapolis), July 9, 1994).

In my opinion, the government ought to scrap the current classification and either get out of the business of racial/ethnic categorizing or include the 215 ancestry groups which were reported in the 1990 census (U.S. Bureau of the Census, DETAILED ANCESTRY FOR STATES, 1990 CP-S-1-2). These data are based on the responses to the question: "What is this person's ancestry or ethnic origin?" After all, are you not the final authority on who you are?

Rudolph J. Vecoli

University of Minnesota

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