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Collisions at the Intersection of Gender, Race, and Class: Enforcing the Chinese Exclusion Laws

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This article explores the ramifications of the intersections of gender, race, and class ideologies for the enforcement of the Chinese Exclusion Laws in the years immediately following their passage. Drawing from government documents and archival data, I argue that the notions of gender, race, and class that permeated the legislative debate contained significant incoherences and self-contradictions, and that many of the dilemmas surrounding the enforcement of the exclusion laws against Chinese women resulted from these collisions. Faced with conflicting mandates derived from, for example, racism and patriarchy, enforcement officers had to choose between equally powerful discourses. Their ad hoc and often pragmatic approach to such dilemmas contrasted sharply with a policy process that otherwise appeared to be driven by unquestioned—and unquestionable—moral mandates. In concluding, I note the implications for our understanding of the contingencies and instabilities of ideology and the legal practices of which it is part.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of California, Irvine

Publication date: June 1, 2006


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