Reading Response

Irish American and Asian American Historiography

The ways in which migrant history is written depends on the people who are being researched. Historiography on Irish migrants is larger than on Asian American migrants. Reasons for this include the time in which the studies of these people happened; Irish heritage and ancestor study was very popular for white Americans while Asian American research was barded and stunted due to racial issues and political involvement. ‘No Lamps Were Lit for Them’ speaks on the troubles of Asian American historiography in connection to the rise of ethnic background research and reemergence of Ellis Island compared to Angle Island. ’20 Years of Irish American Historiography’ looks at the ways the written history on Irish American has changed when compared to the first collective study by Kerby Miller ‘Emigrated and Exiles’ in 1988.

Angel Island on the west coast was operated from 1910-1940. In opposition to Ellis Island, Angel Island housed, mostly Asian American, detainees until they could be processed. The island was not recognized the same way as Ellis Island became of what it was used for and who stayed there. During the resurgence of ethnic background by white American Ellis Island became a visual representation for the ‘immigrant experience’ and in doing so ignored the other migrant stations in the west and along the Mexican-US border. The historiography on Asian Americans can be broken down into sections. The first was the ‘period of scorn’, in the few works that mentioned Asian Americans it was done with distain and if permitting the ‘forever foreigner’ motif. At the time also they were not included in migration history either became they were ‘alien in every sense’ or the author did not want to the research to be “complicated with the very different problems of Chinese or Japanese immigration.” Following was the ‘period of neglect’ during this time Asian Americans were again ignored in research all together even when talking about migration. Finally, limited awareness of Asian American history because migration studies was so focused on European migration. Reasoning for this was the run off effects of ethnic studies, racism, and an unwillingness to expand the current model for others.

Kerby Millers book was considered the most collective source for Irish American history. Miller wanted to look at why the Irish saw their migration as an involuntary exile. Themes of Miller’s work include process of migration, colonial period in American history, labor and race, intersection of the Irish with other migrant and ethnic groups in the United States, and the emergence of new transnational context for Irish American history. The reality versus the rhetoric of Irish American history is also discussed. Critics of Miller’s work felt he was too pessimistic of the Irish Americans he studied. In his work he also contradicted himself in his research and how he laid out the book. Miller used few personal accounts numerous stories as evidence while barely discussing the Irish migrant women. On the topic of religion, from how he uses it, does not show how religion can be more of a controlling force than a community engagement one. Second to last the ‘whiteness thesis’ discusses when and how the Irish were seen as white. Though the Irish were always white, European, they were first Irish and unpopular so when the migrating African Americans and Eastern Europeans arrived the Irish had something to oppose and compare to show their whiteness and project their perceived racism onto. Lastly the issue of nation-states and transnationalism is looked at. The effect and reasoning behind nationalism was not seen in Miller’s work because for him the migrants were forced to leave so could not form a nationalist ideal for their country as they would have in America. Nationalism was also a way to prove ones Americanism in America, which was not needed in Ireland when they left.

Reading Response

Pegler-Gordon Reviews

Anna Pegler-Gordon looks at how photography had been used to visualize race. Pegler-Gordon uses the early photography of Chinese immigrants to show this. The use of photography and medical examinations were two ways to restrict people from the United States. For it was only the non-European immigrants at Angel Island and on the Mexican-US border who were photographed. The subjects of these photographs did protest them because they felt it criminalized them. In turn the Chinese immigrants would forge or manipulate the photos to be awarded entry. Photography as a way to define race is easily accepted today because of the use of media and visual representation, but the study of photography in relation to race and immigration was largely ignored because of the small to nonexistent European subjects.

Some issues with the book include looking too deeply into the subject matter at times. What Pegler-Gordon does well though is in asking numerous questions about the methods and motivations for research is important to recognize the limited focus in some areas of immigration studies. Another well written area of Pegler-Gordon’s book is the focus on the three main immigration location; Ellis Island, Angel Island, and the Mexican-US border. Beyond photography Pegler-Gordon looks at the alternative ways to seek entry into the United States through nationality and race changes or familiar claims. The book shows the how the confusing and expansive policies were manipulated by those who had to enforce them and who the laws were intended for.

Reading Response

National Insecurities

Immigration concerns involving policy, national origins, civil liberties, and nation security intensified after September 11, 2001. From this, immigration has now been the number one topic each election and governmental change or decision pertaining to immigrants is met with some form of backlash and response. Implementing policies and laws is confusing because many compete or overlap. From these policies the problem of racial profiling and a ‘law and order’ platform from the early 1980s. ‘National Insecurities’ seeks to talk about the ways in which “deportation policy has served as a social filter, defining eligibility for citizenship and fundamentally shaping the subsequent composition of the American population.” To do so looking at race, gender, and class and the ways in which they affect economy and policy.

Racially based proxy is to define a person based on the potential for disease, economic status, and religious beliefs. It is the way to racial profile without out right doing so. Race has defined immigration in the United States since the 1875 Page Law. For nonwhite women, race and gender heavily determined immigration status also. Nonwhite women were denied by racial proxy and gender through potential of prostitution and marital status. This is seen in the exclusion of Chinese women, which only helped to further racist stereotypes against Chinese male immigrants in America. Race plays into the economics of immigration policy also through business. Cheap labor, below minimum wage, of first Chinese immigrants on the railroads and mines to Mexican immigrant’s odd jobs determines immigration policy because business owners want to have cheap labor. But the deportation or exclusion of racial groups gets rid of their workforces. The beginnings of Border Portal in 1924 left Mexican and Filipinos vulnerable. Sometimes though race is less the issue and it is more determined by political ideologies. During the Red Scare following World War II women and nonwhites were vulnerable to deportation and exclusion. “Transnational persecution by examine immigrant exclusion and deportation policy in the United States from the late nineteenth center until World War II era” policy reflects into todays also.

Policy differences between exclusion and deportation are in the numbers and legal requirements.  Deportation is the state-mandated process by which noncitizen immigrants are expelled from a nation on the basis of administration determination that they have violated immigrant policy or committed a crime. Exclusion is denying access to a nation. Exclusion is more common. A third option is voluntary deportation, chosen most often because of the time and cost of deportation for the noncitizen means the possibility of  neglect, even death, in the deportation centers. The argument that deportation is rights based not numerical based is shown through the federal process involved in deportation which is also economic. Exclusion of immigrant workers is only after their labor had been used. Race again shows up in the making of policy because they drew from the racist medical theories known as eugenics.

The social and political histories focuses on the community studies, workplace, and social mobility. As seen in the early works from Handlin’s to Verolies and later Bednar’s work there is an absence of analysis of the role of state regulation and political incorporations in race, class, and gender. It was not until the works Gardner and Luibhead that gender was talked alongside of immigration. Focusing not just on immigration policy itself but on what determines it and nongovernmental agencies are looked at in Fairchild’s work in public health. Nongovernmental agencies played an important role in helping to advocate for others in America. Whiteness is very important when discussing immigration and what surrounds it. Roedgers and Guglielmo look at the ways whiteness effects immigrant policy and how immigrants in America seek to achieve whiteness as a way to assimilate. Incorporating other aspects into immigration studies.

Reading Response

Forming the Italian American Table

The Italian portrayal on television shows tight knit family units made up of a head patriarch, father figure and his wife and companion mother figure who provide for the extended family and close relations through support and food. Food in the portray Italian Americans shows the connection food has to the Italian way of life, both on screen and in the kitchen. Self-identity and pride was shown through the food; special recipes and passed down traditions from the ‘homeland’ helped to define the early Italian migrants. Reasons this work was because of the power of food to create and support community and family of migrants coming from a nation that did not have much in the way of food identity. Second, food trade in the Italian economy was important to bringing ‘authentic’ foodstuffs to those in America and a reasons for migrating in the first place. It also moved the economy along for the rural Italian farmers at home. Lastly, self-representation when they did not have one prior to moving to America. Italians, and many others, did not bring with them nationalist views of their home countries, instead they learned their ethnicity in America while the early arrivals helped to shape it for those coming after.

Historical writing on the mass migration of Italian migrants does not vary the experiences they may have had including power struggles and assimilation. It also shows the creating of a national identity or cuisine. The common thought of Italian foods were not actually eaten in Italy but created later in America. The written history shows who was making the food. Many of the actually cooks were women, mothers and grandmothers, who stayed in the kitchens preparing meals for the families and communities. Though it is the male chiefs who reviewed the titles and recognition for the meals. Race and class show a literal hunger for food representation. Community and family is reflected through class, those who could afford to create their family identity, through food, did so through large weekly meals that reflect middle class values. These values include a quest for American whiteness. In the beginning the Italians were the ‘other’ European migrants but the migrations of blacks and Puerto Ricans in New York, the Italians had to portray the white values so as not to be seen the same as them. This was done by economic extensions of trade and business building. The focus on food as an identifier is important because it is so particular to migrants and ones who came without strong nationalist ties to home countries. Food is a way to show class differences also because of who was able to buy the food and claim it as their own.

Reading Response

History in the New Millennium

One of the largest controversy for historians is in finding the truth. The purpose of historians to write history from the small facts they have. It is extremely important for historians to write an accurate history on their subjects the best they can. To not write the truth is not only wrong it is a form of misinterpretation of the past that can have horrible effects on the future. Especially when the history is of a horrendous act perpetrated by one group to another and was highly involved in an actual world war. This controversy was on the denial of the Holocaust by David Irving. This result in one the largest and most known historical trials. The trial was brought ton by Irving filing a lawsuit against British professor Deborah Lippstadt on the basis of libel and labeling him a Holocaust denier. In the aftermath of the trial, it showed the importance of historical trying to find the truth and accurate conclusions in history. Another outcome was the difference and problems of labeling someone a historian when they are not. The trial brought up many questionable testimony over Irving’s status as a historian. It showed numerous accounts of plagiarize and falsehoods in his works and other historians too.

The next hurdle for historical accuracy is the internet. More likely the amount of unfiltered access and muddling of history in entertainment make it more difficult to establish a common or correct truth outside of the history field. The historical methodologies do not transfer well to the expansion of the internet making it difficult to study and pay attention to any inaccuracies. Another problem is the transfer of history on the internet and issues historians have of making available valid and accurate history. When looking for historical research it is more often that not a student will have to look in both the online and paper resources because of this or may find certain research that is cut off. Also in the classroom, professors run into the problem of not only losing out on information but on the student’s attention in class through the internet. More people having more access to more information comes with a cost though. This information may not be filtered accordingly and can easily carry falsehoods that are left unchecked. If the student has access to it all. The presentation of these histories is also changing. If the student has access to the research what is the best way to get the information across that is still involved and will not bore the student or deter them from wanting to learn more.

To do so it is important to look towards expanding history globally. To globalize history is a very difficult task because the amount of historians who have the time and knowledge to do so. Expanding history is important because it is one of the ways to make sure that everyone’s story is being told and to help fight any inaccuracies that can arise from historical research. Opening up the different avenues of history to those who have been marginalized, any that are not white males, is a way to also find historical truths and different viewpoints on the same event. To be global also means stepping away from Western centered research and history that paints the West as the producer and not a product of globalization and migration.

Reading Response

Selling the ‘East’ in the South

The years after the 1965 Hart-Cellar Immigration Act sought to remedy what happened because of the immigration act. The 1965 Act brought in mostly skilled workers like engineers, doctors, and other middle class work from Asia. Prior to this the migration of South Asians in America were Bengali Muslim peddlers during the late 1800s on the East Coast and Punjabi migration who settled and participated in activism on the West Coast between 1904 and 1924. The Bengali Muslim men who migrated from India starting in 1880s did not stay in New York where they landed but travelled to New Jersey and then down south and into the African American communities in places like Charleston and New Orleans.

Bengali Muslim peddlers were popular, and usually unbothered even during immigration bands, because of what they were selling. During this time the idea and fantasies of ‘the East’ were popular for the elite class. These ‘Oriental goods’ included embroidered cotton, sild kerchiefs and tablecloths, small rugs and wall hangings. For the white, elite buyers of these products they were a sign of status. Before the Bengali peddlers, there was an interest in Chinese products but there were different levels or versions of available ‘Orientalism’ for sale depending on the class of who was buying ranging from, patrician, commercial, and political. ‘Commercial Orientalism’ was marked for the working class who wanted to imitate the pleasures of the upper class while ‘political orientalism’ is the work and labor put into the products that changed from awe and admiration to fear and loathing of the Chinese workers and products. The popularity of Indian products was because of the animosity for the Chinese migrants following the nineteenth century but people, white Americans, still wanted the ‘exotic, far east’ products. The popularity and intrigue with ‘Orientalism’ translated to mainstream entertainment also in the forms of plays, musicals, and dance, company names, and even burlesque shows and brothels. The goods had different meanings for men and women. For white American men it was a way to portray white masculinity of imperialism and play into the fantasy of far off lands. Women liked the fabrics, jewelry, and decorations they could by because it showed off a cosmopolitan independence, and sexual liberation they wanted.

The locations and travel patterns of the Bengali peddlers was interesting because it followed specific patterns. The peddlers would first arrive in New York but would not stay there and would instead go the boardwalk towns in New Jersey for the summers to then travel down south to places like New Orleans, Charleston living in the African American communities and ‘red districts’ of the towns. The pattern here is that they are following the American vacationers who are more likely to buy their products. During the off seasons in when the men would either travel down south or return to India to stock up on more products or train younger peddler men to come to America. This could be one reason they were unbothered by immigration laws; they did not stay long and if they did it was not in the same sphere as white Americans. Following the Second World War, peddlers were more likely to settle down, marry an African American woman, or open up shops. Those who stayed also sought citizenship. At the time citizen ship was only given to ‘free white persons’ and ‘persons of African American descent’. Interestingly, but also makes complete sense, the men would claim to be a ‘free white persons’ probably because it was easier to gain citizenship as a white person than black and to be seen as African American brought black problems. While in New Orleans, the growing popularity of the city and its centralized positon in tourism and exports, made it a popular destination for Bengali peddlers. The success of the peddlers in New Orleans depending on how well they could play into the American white fantasy and ideas of India and the ‘exotic East’. From New Orleans they were able to head even further south into places like Belize, Cuba, Honduras, and Panama.

The differences in treatment from Punjabi migrations to Bengali Muslim peddlers was the level of involvement they each had. The Punjabi migrations were more active in the public realm and came to stay in America. While the Bengali Muslim peddlers were trailing back and forth between American and India in smaller numbers, less political, and filled a specific niche in the tourism economy on the East Coast.

Reading Response

Nation of Migrations ‘Apart’ from History

It is important to actively try and decentralized America in immigration studies because the migration of immigrations happened all over and not just the United States. The story of immigration to the United States is also focus on the European migration and the ‘making’ of America. This has led to the European immigrations to become the norm story and experience for immigrants, though this is untrue and the immigration experience is different for each group that arrives, and leave, the United States. This line of thinking and study leaves out Asian, Latinos and non-European, and those who returned to their homes after staying in America for a certain amount of time. It is also important to talk about the difference in migration and immigration. To decentralize the American story, immigration history can then be looked at the migration patterns of those traveling instead or by region even. It is important to show American history more as a product, than leading producer in immigration history. Regional migration history allows the historian to look at those who would usually be excluded from the narrative also. Even more important is those who came then left the United States also. Whether it be by deportation, nativism, exclusion, interment, or forced internal migration is a way to rethink the immigrant experience because all who came to America were not treated the same. Lastly diplomatic and international policy is hugely important because that will determine who is even able to migrate to the United States and is a way of showing migration patterns around the world to see where they went instead or how those in the United States migrated because of policies.

The field of immigration studies reflects the problems of how to try and involve more people in the American and migration narrative. On one side, the question is whether or not to add the ‘new’ migrants into the same story as earlier ones and to study them the same way. The other side says to look at these newest arrivals as their own section of migrant history and should be studied in a new way to best represent the times and in the correct context, like race. One way to settle these issues is in including race into the discussion and how race played a part in immigration history and continues to play one. The overall ‘whiteness’ of the early migrants had become the norm and base for immigrants experience and stories. The ‘new’ migrants include Asian, Latino, and non-European migrants who have different experiences to the white or white passing early migrants. Asian migration shows many different stories and experiences. From the early migration were because of Spain and global trade routes to Mexico from Pacific Asia as early as 1565. This led to a forced or coerced migration of Chinese and South Asian migrations to South America. A big problem though for Asian migration is how all of Asia gets lumped together as one place and shared experiences, when there is not and how East Asians are tread differently than South or central Asians. International policy against Asian migrants, most Chinese and later Japanese, play a huge role in the Asian migration to America. These acts were based on race and a way to control the influx and persons moving to America. Another way race played into again migration is how Asian migrants could be ‘white passing’ or were accepted at certain intervals because of culture and a fabled ‘model minority’ that was placed on them. The experiences of Asian migrations shows examples of diplomatic, inter regain migration, leaving, interment, and a strange level of acceptance socially and in migration studies.

Reading Response


Following Oscar Handlin’s ‘The Uprooted’ the discourse and study on immigrants and immigration studies changed. Before it was more of a ‘we’ and ‘them’ mentality but following Handlin’s book and his reflection on immigrants ‘we’ became ‘us’. A social movement of self-identifying as a former immigrant changed the way in which immigration was talked and wrote about, from school education to published works. During the Civil Rights movement and after, people lost sight of the transnational experiences in immigration. Trans-nationalism is a social phenomenon and scholarly research agenda that focuses on the migration of people to America. The immigrant image was being romanticized and changed into a national identity that centered on the United States, not outwardly and other places that also experience immigration. The old image was one that showed the immigrants as hard working people just looking for a place to find freedom and peace, but most importantly they found it within the borders of America. They being a small group of Anglo immigrants and those who could easily conform to the American identity and are instead erased from the narrative. Instead of looking at immigration as a geographical movement it would be best to see it in a legal standing which includes citizenship and civic incorporation. Citizenship because many were denied citizenship based on where they originated from or if they did not fit into the new narrative. They were then shifted into civic incorporation as labor. It is more of a globalization movement because the United States was not the only place people migrated to, then replacing the continental notion of migration only happening from far away. Finally to look at how corporations had effected on immigration and a growing one too.

Worldwide used to be used instead of global or globalization. Global used to refer to the scale of migration phenomenon. Two cases of globalizing migration are from Italy and Canada. The first is how the Italian migrant worker went many more places, sooner, than to America for work. There is evidence of Italian work in Canada and South America. The Canadian Case looks at how with immigration restrictions, Canadians became a top social and economic source for the United States. The Canadian migrant workers would cross borders frequently for work with little to no issue. One thing to note is the difference in migration for French Canadians compared to Anglo Canadians who migrated at a one to three ration favoring Anglo Canadians. French Canadians saw a more chain migration with those already in America going back to require more workers for New England factories. They were also more likely to return to the same place where they migrated to. These two examples show the difference in migration that is not focused on America as the center but instead on the people who migrated globally.

Reading Response

Ethnicity and Race Nation

The invention of ethnicity was brought on by the American born whites, as a way to distinguish themselves from the ‘other’ or immigrants during a major immigration period to America. This is because it was thought that new immigrants would have an easy and rapid assimilation, based on theory assumptions. These assumptions include the ease in which Anglo-conformity transformed into the Melting Pot aesthetic of assimilation. The new wave of immigration though resisted and opposed this model and did so through language, cultural maintained though some traditional cultures do not remain unchanged. Even when they were born in America or conformed to all what was expected of them they were still not seen as fully American, called instead ‘ethnic Americans’ brought on by the 1960s ethnic movement. The 1960s ethnic movement was a way for a person to identify with a group. Defining ethnicity changes through the years and knowledge on immigrant studies. The first definition by Clifford Geertz and Harold Isaac defined ethnicity by basic group identification and a need for belonging. Others took a different interpretations like Herbert Gans who saw ethnicity as something doomed to fade away in the presence of American assimilation. It was Nathen Glazer and Daniel Moynihan who focus less on the cultural complications and more on common interest. They defined ethnicity as an interest group with means of mobilizing behind certain issues relating to socioeconomic positions. Overall the invention of ethnicity is seen as a cultural construct became people are constantly reinventing themselves in and out of America, no more seen as the passive immigrant but active ones. Post Revolution brought a need for the new nation to invent an identity that was separate from the British and uniquely them. In the 19th century, the invention of ethnicity also brought on the need to make an American identity to hold up to each immigrant and determine how American they were. First immigrants were marked with either positive or negative evaluations but to later they were more likely than not a negative because some Americans felt they were threat to political order. But only some immigrant groups were judged, not all and depending on the time period of immigration. This was easy to do with the availability of immigrant groups already existing.

In recent immigration studies though shows a lack of interest in Latino and Asian immigrants and how they are facing a new set of issues. These issues that they are facing are direct results of a change in immigration laws set by the United States. The 1960s not only brought an ethnic movement but also a shift in immigration in Latino and Asian countries with a rise in female immigrants. Race and  immigration play into each other because immigration studies was so largely focused on white ethnic immigrants for such a long time and how they assimilated into a culture that was already welcoming to them versus those who do not pass as white. Also their only mentions of nonwhite immigrants were forced immigration black slaves and how they were treated. The largest changes were the 1965 Immigration Act that changed the origin locations of immigrants and the emergence, growth, and maturity of scholarship of African American, Latinos and Asian Americans. Showing the importance of race in immigration and a shifting focus from ‘white studies’ on immigration. An example being the way in which Asian immigrants are viewed as not fully American no matter how many generations they go back in America. Also how problematic grouping a large and diverse area into one Asia and their treatment in America because of the relations between their origin countries and America. Most notably the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, followed with Asian Indians in 1917, Japanese in 1929, and Filipinos in 1934, supporting the culture of citizen is given to those who can correctly portray whiteness. Latino, specifically Mexican American, shows the way in which they were almost forgot about because what was needed from them was similar to that of Native Americans. Any act against them was not made until the mid-sixties, who more often than not migrated to other places and were also already in America long before the borders were drawn. Latino’s immigration issues were fairly late and brought on a large change to the ways in which Anglo-Americans viewed immigration and whiteness.

Reading Response

Women Immigrant

The focus on immigrant women and women studies in general has not been a huge part of immigrant history. Immigrant women in immigrant studies and women’s studies had not been shown until a change existed in 1970s and the 1980s. The history of the family, working classes, respect for human agencies, as workers and labor activist are some of the numerous areas where women’s studies and immigration studies combine and could be examined to better represent the history of immigrant women. But this is not happening, instead they history is being developed in opposing fields. During the early 1970s a popular method of study was to look at the documents of notable women’s lives and contributions. For women’s studies this is great but it leaves out such a large group of marginalized women, like immigrants. At the same time, immigrant studies was moving away from upholding the contributions of immigrants. Or filliopietism which is the glorification of the contributions of great immigrants. Another change in the mid-1970s in women’s studies was the focus on the uniqueness of women apart from men, the opposite of immigrant studies who were looking at the family unit as a community. But some felt this did not fully represent women immigrant studies because a woman’s voice is usually no heard in family units. From these examples and to further the study of immigrant women, the next steps are to look immigrant women in new ways than before. Those outside of the home, if they are tied to a family or community how do they identify themselves there, and to move away from putting western ideas on immigrant women.

An example of this is Irish immigrant women. Unlike most women immigrants who travelled to America, Irish women were unmarried and earning wages sending them back home to devastated farms and families. These women were traveling in equal numbers to men but doing so severely from the male immigrants. The opportunities were different also. They were usually working in others homes at the time but did leaned help to later workers movements. The contribution of these lone women are seen also in religion. It was nuns who played a large role in the creation of social welfare institutions in urban America. These women away from home also helped to influence it though they were no longer there. The wages they sent back went to family farms during famine, churches to fund education, and an exchange of ideas like nationalism.