Scientific article
Open access

Sexing the Sojourner: Imagining Nation: Writing Women in the Global Chinese Diaspora

Published inContemporary women's writing, vol. 1, no. 2, p. 36-49
Publication date2008

This essay is addresses the symbolic power of the Chinese female body in the Exclusion Era. Female Chinese migrants to the US in the late nineteenth-century found both their bodies and their work circumscribed by patriarchal efforts at nation-building exterted from both sides of the Pacific. When female immigrants began arriving in California only a few years after statehood had been granted, they became passive participants in political efforts to ensure that the West Coast be assimilated to the American nation. This meant that permanent settlers should be white, Christian and European; temporary immigrant workers should be prevented from reproducing families in the US but encouraged to produce future generations of temporary labor in China. However, the recent liberalization of Chinese Exclusion laws forbidding immigration to the US from China involved efforts to sustain and extend a complex diasporic network of economic, social, political and cultural relationships spanning the Pacific. While Chinese women were exploited through a trans-Pacific sex trade made possible by both Chinese and American patriarchy, they also articulated the contradictory demands made by the nascent nation state on its frontiers. Chinese women were demonized as disease-carrying prostitutes at the same time that they facilitated the bachelor lifestyle of the Chinese men who were to build the infrastructure of the American West. In this way Chinese immigrant women, many of whom were subjected to sexual servitude in frontier mining towns and growing coastal cities, made possible the permanent settling of the West by European American families, families that would reproduce as white Anglo-American "nationalized" bodies.

  • Ruthanne Lum McCunn
  • Fruit Chan
  • Diaspora
  • Immigration
  • Immigrant labor
  • Chinese Exclusion Laws
  • United States nationhood
  • Prostitution
  • Sexuality
  • Gender
  • Race
Citation (ISO format)
MADSEN, Deborah Lea. Sexing the Sojourner: Imagining Nation: Writing Women in the Global Chinese Diaspora. In: Contemporary women’s writing, 2008, vol. 1, n° 2, p. 36–49.
Main files (1)
Article (Accepted version)
  • PID : unige:87627
ISSN of the journal1754-1476

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