Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco's Chinatown

Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco's Chinatown

by Nayan Shah

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Contagious Divides charts the dynamic transformation of representations of Chinese immigrants from medical menace in the nineteenth century to model citizen in the mid-twentieth century. Examining the cultural politics of public health and Chinese immigration in San Francisco, this book looks at the history of racial formation in the U.S. by focusing on the development of public health bureaucracies.

Nayan Shah notes how the production of Chinese difference and white, heterosexual norms in public health policy affected social lives, politics, and cultural expression. Public health authorities depicted Chinese immigrants as filthy and diseased, as the carriers of such incurable afflictions as smallpox, syphilis, and bubonic plague. This resulted in the vociferous enforcement of sanitary regulations on the Chinese community. But the authorities did more than demon-ize the Chinese; they also marshaled civic resources that promoted sewer construction, vaccination programs, and public health management.

Shah shows how Chinese Americans responded to health regulations and allegations with persuasive political speeches, lawsuits, boycotts, violent protests, and poems. Chinese American activists drew upon public health strategies in their advocacy for health services and public housing. Adroitly employing discourses of race and health, these activists argued that Chinese Americans were worthy and deserving of sharing in the resources of American society.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520935532
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 10/29/2001
Series: American Crossroads , #7
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 398
Sales rank: 1,017,822
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Nayan Shah is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History at the University of Southern California and the author of Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West (UC Press).

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Public Health, Race, and Citizenship
1. Public Health and the Mapping of Chinatown
2. Regulating Bodies and Space
3. Perversity, Contamination, and the Dangers of Queer Domesticity
4. White Women, Hygiene and the Struggle for Respectable Domesticity
5. Plague and Managing the Commercial City
6. White Labor and the American Standard of Living
7. Making Medical Borders at Angel Island
8. Healthy Spaces, Healthy Conduct
9. Reforming Chinatown
Conclusion: Norms as a Way of Life

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