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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Positioned at the crossroads of immigration history, ethnic and law studies, Impossible Subjects can be understood as a test of the validity regarding the American claims, past or present, to be a nation of immigrants, a melting pot, a land of inclusion.

The nyai was a labor-union organizer before becoming Professor of history and Asian American Studies at Columbia University. 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.

If illegality is a label that may change depending on the various laws on immigration, Ngai points out four categories systematically built to link race with illegality in the United States: Indeed, the illegal alien becomes, by immigration laws, an “impossible subject”, defined precisely by the illegality of their existence: The essay first analyses the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act.

Nevertheless, is a seminal date because it leads to the establishment of ngwi limits and the ngwi of a global racial hierarchy that excludes certain categories mainly Chinese, Japanese, South Indians. In turn, the Act solidifies the legal boundaries of the white race.

The establishment of a border patrol as a law enforcement agency transforms unauthorized entry into a criminal act with a risk of deportation.

Labelled as undocumented ,ae and contract laborers, the Mexican and Filipino immigration helped to constitute the notion of whiteness 3.

Filipino migrant laborers worked mostly in the Pacific Northwest and California on summer contracts. However, Filipino immigration differed from other migration experiences, owing to the Philippines’ status of US territory as a result of US victory in the Spanish American war.

Filipinos were portrayed in ssubjects Treaty of Paris as incapable of ,ae and the insular cases gave legal grounds for the U. After a period of benevolence from the American government to fill up the shortage in agriculture, they had to endure racial violence in the late s because of racial stereotypes and for economic reasons, such as fear of losing jobs or anxieties of miscegenation.

The depression exacerbated the conflicts surrounding jobs, there were attempts to repatriate Filipinos in mass. Indeed, the Welch Bill of subsidized passage back to the Philippines and thus conflated repatriation and deportation. Indeed, the carrot and stick policy of the Immigration and Naturalization Service INSan agency created inis analyzed through Operation Wetback, developed in by the U.


Government and the Mexican Government to curb illegal flows through deportation of Mexicans. Nevertheless, the program only records short-term successes. Ngai shows how international commitments and particularly the Second World War and the Cold War influenced American immigration laws and constructed a new category of citizens: It deals with the internment of Americans with Japanese origins in U.

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

The switch from a positive image of the Japanese at the beginning of the century to the constitution of the Japanese enemy in the context of World War II is brilliantly analyzed.

The reader learns that the internment was also intended for American Germans and Italians but the latter were released the following month by the FBI. The War Relocation Authority WRAthe institutional actor of this forced internment, participated fully in the constitution of a racially based citizenship. Ngai shows how the institutions viewed Japanese Americans as racial children in need of democratic tutelage, in a way which is not dissimilar to claims about black Americans.

It culminated in the Denationalization act of July that authorized citizens to make a voluntary renunciation of citizenship. Wayne Collins, civil rights attorney, took their case and managed in a thirteen-year-old battle to mea the citizenship of Japanese Americans after the War, on the grounds that the Japanese reacted under condition of coercion — perhaps thereby renewing the stereotype of the Japanese weakness and pragmatism, even if this is not the subject of debate for Ngai.

If a lot of Nissei second-generation Japanese, born in America and with an American citizenship renounced their American citizenship, nationalism within the Japanese population was overestimated according to Ngai — this renunciation is, according to her, an angry reaction against American politics rather than a desire for repatriation.

The reader has also a glimpse of the culture in camps, particularly on Tule Lake, the segregated camp for Gnai disloyals. 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. The program sought confessions of illegal entry from U. Nevertheless, the risk of deportation for the confessor and impossile family and the lack of benefits from confessing created fear in both the Chinese and white community.

Summary Response to Mae Ngai’s Impossible Subjects | Christopher Edward Morris –

The Chinese American were thus victims of an anti-communism hysteria in the midst of Cold War politics where China was the number one enemy.


Without doubt, it is the most militant part, and probably also the least analytical. Later on, this liberal thought was exemplified by John F.

According to Ngai, the liberal discourse advocated an unfair notion of equality sweeping off economic or political differences between countries — even if the politics of asylum for Jewish refugees is not really investigated. Liberals also remained ambivalent about immigration from the Third World, as demonstrated by the McCarran Walter Act.


This act imposed an immigration quota to the British colonies in the Caribbean in order to limit the immigration of Black people in the U.

Indeed, these years paved the way for an increased immigration from the Third World and continued American commitment aubjects numerical restrictions by the imposition of quotas on Western hemisphere countries.

The stunning militarization of the U. Ngai vigorously opposes this stereotype as it elides the existence of large numbers of working-class immigrants and undocumented workers or refugees. She also notes that the growth in size of Asian and Latino makes the black-white prism of American society more complex.

Eventually, globalization triggers a push-and-pull migration from developing countries to subjecte sectors in the United States, leading to new forms of illegal aliens. The impressive compilation of institutional archives has to be noted, some of which previously unstudied, such as the Imposible. Oral sources, if they are present in the list of archives, remain singularly absent in the narrative, which is dominated by the ipossible of the changing design of the nation-state based on a stricter enforcement of national sovereignty.

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. In this sense, the essay would have also benefited from a reflection on gender. If the racialized sexual representations of Filipinos as feminized males are well studied, the way immigrant policies affected gender dynamics is largely underestimated.

Chinese women, seen as presumptive prostitutes and Chinese males portrayed as sexually deviant since the s, are not even mentioned. The book was indeed published at the time of the immigration reform proposal by George Bush The reform, criticized as a new bracero program, thus emphasized the acute character of illegal immigration in the United States in its contemporary ramifications 4.

Structural DeterminantsWestport, Praeger, American Poetry and the Paradigm of the New. See for example the very recent film Soy Ne