In the late 19th century, persons of European ancestry insisted that persons of Asian ancestry were “unfit” for American citizenship, as they were “unassimilable” into European American norms and customs. Asians faced exclusion from immigration. Moreover, the United States did not allow immigrants in Asia to pass into American citizenship until 1952. And even after hundreds of thousands of Asian immigrants and native-born Asian Americans had formal citizenship, they still appeared as “perpetually foreign” to the fellow European Americans who gazed upon them. These themes appear prominently in Asian American history and Asian American cultural studies, and Professors Xiaojian Zhao on Chinese American immigration, John Park on legal and race theory and migration, Lalaie Ameeriar on the state and immigration, and Sameer Pandya in creative writing have explored these themes extensively in their published works. Professors Lisa Park through public policy and healthcare access and Diane Fujino through social movements examine the ways immigrants and communities of color are excluded from the rights and protections of citizenship, as well as the ways inclusion too can also be problematic, including the ways that inclusion for one group can and has been premised on the exclusion of others.
Several of our upper division classes offer detailed historical accounts of how the United States regulated immigration and citizenship. These classes offer detailed studies of how Americans have conceived of “immigrants,” “citizens,” “aliens,” and “foreigners” over time. In his classes in cultural studies and in creative fiction, Professor Pandya shows how Asian Americans can experience “foreignness” and American citizenship at the same time.