December 2023 (vol. 13, no. 4)

December 2023 (vol. 13, no. 4)

Volume 13, Number 4
December 2023


Hidetaka Hirota

This essay introduces the special forum on transpacific connections in the Civil War Era. The forum examines how U.S. interaction with Asia and the Pacific shaped race relations, gender ideology, diplomacy, and legal rights in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century. By examining the first Japanese diplomatic mission to the United States, the experience of Black migrants in Japan, Chinese women’s habeas corpus litigations, and the naturalized citizenship of Chinese Americans, the forum integrates Asia and the Pacific into Civil War era scholarship. Conceptually, the forum is informed by three strands of historiography: the international history of the Civil War era; the American West during the Civil War era; and the history of the Pacific World.

Keywords: Asia and the Pacific; U.S. in the World; Civil War West; Pacific World; Race relations; Gender Ideology; US-Japan diplomacy; Habeas corpus; Naturalization

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Ikuko Asaka

Guerilla Women and Men in Silk Dresses: Diplomacy and Orientalism during the 1860 Japanese Mission

In the summer of 1860 seventy-seven samurai conducted a month-long tour of eastern seaboard cities during a diplomatic mission to advance the fledgling U.S.-Japan relations. The delegation became an instant sensation. News coverage of the visit revolved around a few motifs: feminized representations of the Japanese diplomats; white women’s enthusiastic receptions; and castigations of white women’s autonomous participation in formal and informal diplomatic arenas. This article interprets the press’s feminizing discourse as an instantiation of American orientalism and argues that diplomacy, due to its inherent and historically specific workings, undercut and subverted the press’s feminization of Japanese men and devaluation of white women’s political capacity and that white women’s interracial sexual desire was imagined in such a way that disconnected the organization of sexuality from a rigid gender binary of female and male.  

Keywords: diplomacy, orientalism, US-Japan relations, gender, sexuality, women

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Stacey L. Smith

The Colored Asiatic Traveler: Peter K.L. Cole and American Empire in Japan

This article examines African Americans’ participation in US empire-building in the nineteenth-century Pacific World. It uses the life story of Peter K.L. Cole, a Black world traveler and a resident of Yokohama, Japan, to explore how notions of race, empire, modernity, and citizenship circulated around the Pacific Ocean from the 1850s to the 1870s. Cole deployed the intertwined discourses of Black settler colonialism and Black orientalism to stake claims to African American equality in the postwar United States. His efforts to build equal citizenship on the basis of Black men’s service to American empire abroad gained little traction as the white supremacist logics of the US settler state excluded Black people from national belonging and erased their participation in imperial expansion.

Keywords: African Americans; Yokohama, Japan; Nineteenth century; Black settler colonialism; Black orientalism; Settler colonialism; Pacific World ; Pacific Ocean; American empire

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Tian Xu

Chinese Women Migrants, Habeas Petitions, and the Search for a Freer Life in California, 1857-1882

This article examines how Chinese women and men used habeas corpus proceedings in California to contest transpacific relations of gender, commerce, law, and power. The first section looks at habeas hearings about runaway or allegedly kidnapped Chinese women already in the United States. The second section chronicles how these hearings correlated with and diverged from the habeas proceedings involving the detention of Chinese women immigrants upon arrival. The California judges’ approach to these cases mirrored Congress’s concern over “the enormous diversity of domestic arrangements” in slavery by the end of the Civil War, when lawmakers introduced monogamous marriage and dependency on a male head of household as the most acceptable conditions for a nonwhite woman’s freedom.  The habeas proceedings concerning Chinese women thus revealed a Pacific, subnational practice of governance that was consonant with the national trend of reconstructing nonwhite women’s sociolegal status in the Civil War era.

Keywords: Chinese women, habeas corpus, immigration, women’s history, Pacific, California, Chy Lung, human traffic, legal agency, law and society

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Beth Lew-Williams

Chinese Naturalization, Voting, and Other Impossible Acts

Historians have taken as a defining characteristic of Chinese experience in the United States their inability to naturalize until the repeal of Chinese Exclusion in 1943. It is certainly true that treaty agreements, court rulings, and discriminatory legislation conspired to prevent the existence of Chinese American citizens. But scholars may have taken for granted Chinese migrants’ alien status and disenfranchisement more than they themselves did. In 1900, the U.S. census recorded that 6.7 percent of the Chinese population had naturalized. These naturalized Chinese accomplished a seemingly impossible task and in so doing they exposed broader truths about the uncertain nature of citizenship in the postbellum era.

Keywords: Chinese migrants, Chinese Americans, Naturalization, Citizenship, Alienage, Voting, Disenfranchisement, Chinese exclusion

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Mae Ngai

Comments to Transpacific Connections in the Civil War Era

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