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Reviewed by:
  • Chinese Americans and the Politics of Race and Culture
  • Yong Chen
Chinese Americans and the Politics of Race and Culture. Edited by Sucheng Chan and Madeline Y. Hsu. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 2008.

Put together by two leading scholars in the field, Chinese Americans and the Politics of Race and Culture represent an important contribution to the study of Chinese American history. Sucheng Chan has authored some of the best monographs on Chinese American history and edited several highly regarded anthologies. Madeline Y. Hsu, author of critically claimed Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration Between the United States and South China, 1882-1943 (Stanford University Press, 2000) has emerged as an international visible scholar.

Not intended to provide paradigm-shifting theories or comprehensive coverage of Chinese American history, the anthology offers an important framework through the notion "politics of culture," which is articulated in the preface written by Chan. It points to the centrality of culture in American political life and the Chinese struggles for political and socioeconomic justice. Equally important is her terse yet insightful analysis of three other key terms: diaspora, transnationalism, and globalization. The introduction, also by Chan, gives us a most comprehensive historiographical account of Chinese American history. Her discussions in the preface and introduction help us appreciate the intellectual importance and coherence of the book.

Covering diverse domestic and translational developments since the late nineteenth century, the following seven chapters demonstrate a remarkable degree of coherency and represent the latest and highly original scholarship. Some of them deal with topics that [End Page 277] have not yet received sufficient attention, while others offer new insights into familiar topics.

Concentrating on food, an immensely important but long-ignored aspect of Chinese life, Hsu shows "the continued salience of ethnicity in Chinese American lives even as cold war ideologies proclaimed their increasing acceptance into the American mainstream" (173) in chapter 5. Dealing with immigrants from Changle of Fujian Province in chapter 7, Xiaojian Zhao affords us a valuable opportunity to closely look at the experiences and mentality of a newest group of Chinese Americans, who are reshaping the face of the Chinese community in New York and elsewhere. Andrea Louie's chapter 6 investigates a different kind of Pacific voyage: young Chinese Americans visiting China under the "In Search of Roots Program" (195) and offers sophisticated analysis of its ramifications on identity, class, and gender. Also dealing with transnationalism, chapter 3 by Karen Leong and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu discusses Chinese American activities in support of China during the Sino-Japanese war. In chapter 4, K. Scott Wong draws attention to domestic impacts of transnationalism, showing how international developments changed war-time perceptions of Chinese Americans. So does Josephine Fowler's examination of pre-war left-wing activism in chapter 2. Providing a refreshingly in-depth look at another familiar topic—the Chinese American struggles for civil rights, in chapter 1 Mae M. Ngai reveals the experiences and roles of key players in Tape v. Hurley, an 1885 California Supreme Court case, prohibiting the exclusion of Chinese from public schools.

In short, the intellectual insights of this compelling volume will benefit scholars of Chinese America as well as Asian America and immigration and ethnicity.

Yong Chen
University of California-Irvine


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pp. 277-278
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