By Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson
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Additional info for A Race So Different: Performance and Law in Asian America
Chinoiserie engages with the legal history of Chinese America in order to restore erased Chinese American stories to history and to rethink the possibilities for emergent forms of justice for the future. Chapters 3 and 4 turn to the realm of quotidian performance with a study of the Japanese American concentration camps. In chapter 3, I look to everyday performances of patriotism in the camps, attending to the interplay of legal performativity and embodied performance in the manifestation of racial subjectivity in and on the Japanese American body during the war.
Long’s readers would have been well aware of the general anti-Asian sentiment that pervaded the country. During the late 1870s and early 1880s, the nation was engaged in vigorous debates over what to do about a perceived influx of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indian immigrants. ”33 With Asian immigrants figured as a threat to the national order, only a very small minority voiced support for a pluralist embrace of Chinese immigrants. Pinkerton’s desire to “keep out those who are out” would have resonated with popular sentiment about Asian subjects in general at the time.
The first two chapters consider how stage performances can act as legal functionaries in their own right. In chapter 1, I return to a critical text in Asian American studies, Madame Butterfly, with a comparative study of the three original versions of the narrative: John Luther Long’s 1898 novella Madame Butterfly, David Belasco’s 1900 theatrical spectacle adapted from the novella, and Giacomo Puccini’s 1904–7 opera Madama Butterfly. I read the ways in which Madame Butterfly functions as an agent for the dissemination of exclusion-era jurisprudence about Asian racial difference, suggesting that as a work that remains popular for contemporary audiences, it continues to influence the making of legal subjectivity for Asian Americans today.