Impossible Subjects

Politics and Society in Modern America

Book 105
Princeton University Press
4
Free sample

This book traces the origins of the "illegal alien" in American law and society, explaining why and how illegal migration became the central problem in U.S. immigration policy—a process that profoundly shaped ideas and practices about citizenship, race, and state authority in the twentieth century. Mae Ngai offers a close reading of the legal regime of restriction that commenced in the 1920s—its statutory architecture, judicial genealogies, administrative enforcement, differential treatment of European and non-European migrants, and long-term effects. She shows that immigration restriction, particularly national-origin and numerical quotas, remapped America both by creating new categories of racial difference and by emphasizing as never before the nation's contiguous land borders and their patrol.

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About the author

Mae M. Ngai is professor of history and Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies at Columbia University. Her books include The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Apr 27, 2014
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9781400850235
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)
History / United States / 20th Century
Social Science / Emigration & Immigration
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In 1940, Phoenix was a small, agricultural city of sixty-five thousand, and the Navajo Reservation was an open landscape of scattered sheepherders. Forty years later, Phoenix had blossomed into a metropolis of 1.5 million people and the territory of the Navajo Nation was home to two of the largest strip mines in the world. Five coal-burning power plants surrounded the reservation, generating electricity for export to Phoenix, Los Angeles, and other cities. Exploring the postwar developments of these two very different landscapes, Power Lines tells the story of the far-reaching environmental and social inequalities of metropolitan growth, and the roots of the contemporary coal-fueled climate change crisis.

Andrew Needham explains how inexpensive electricity became a requirement for modern life in Phoenix—driving assembly lines and cooling the oppressive heat. Navajo officials initially hoped energy development would improve their lands too, but as ash piles marked their landscape, air pollution filled the skies, and almost half of Navajo households remained without electricity, many Navajos came to view power lines as a sign of their subordination in the Southwest. Drawing together urban, environmental, and American Indian history, Needham demonstrates how power lines created unequal connections between distant landscapes and how environmental changes associated with suburbanization reached far beyond the metropolitan frontier. Needham also offers a new account of postwar inequality, arguing that residents of the metropolitan periphery suffered similar patterns of marginalization as those faced in America's inner cities.

Telling how coal from Indian lands became the fuel of modernity in the Southwest, Power Lines explores the dramatic effects that this energy system has had on the people and environment of the region.

Josephine Roche (1886–1976) was a progressive activist, New Deal policymaker, and businesswoman. As a pro-labor and feminist member of Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, she shaped the founding legislation of the U.S. welfare state and generated the national conversation about health-care policy that Americans are still having today. In this gripping biography, Robyn Muncy offers Roche’s persistent progressivism as evidence for surprising continuities among the Progressive Era, the New Deal, and the Great Society.

Muncy explains that Roche became the second-highest-ranking woman in the New Deal government after running a Colorado coal company in partnership with coal miners themselves. Once in office, Roche developed a national health plan that was stymied by World War II but enacted piecemeal during the postwar period, culminating in Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s. By then, Roche directed the United Mine Workers of America Welfare and Retirement Fund, an initiative aimed at bolstering the labor movement, advancing managed health care, and reorganizing medicine to facilitate national health insurance, one of Roche’s unrealized dreams.

In Relentless Reformer, Muncy uses Roche’s dramatic life story—from her stint as Denver’s first policewoman in 1912 to her fight against a murderous labor union official in 1972—as a unique vantage point from which to examine the challenges that women have faced in public life and to reassess the meaning and trajectory of progressive reform.

Covering more than four decades of American social and political history, The Loneliness of the Black Republican examines the ideas and actions of black Republican activists, officials, and politicians, from the era of the New Deal to Ronald Reagan's presidential ascent in 1980. Their unique stories reveal African Americans fighting for an alternative economic and civil rights movement—even as the Republican Party appeared increasingly hostile to that very idea. Black party members attempted to influence the direction of conservatism—not to destroy it, but rather to expand the ideology to include black needs and interests.

As racial minorities in their political party and as political minorities within their community, black Republicans occupied an irreconcilable position—they were shunned by African American communities and subordinated by the GOP. In response, black Republicans vocally, and at times viciously, critiqued members of their race and party, in an effort to shape the attitudes and public images of black citizens and the GOP. And yet, there was also a measure of irony to black Republicans' "loneliness": at various points, factions of the Republican Party, such as the Nixon administration, instituted some of the policies and programs offered by black party members. What's more, black Republican initiatives, such as the fair housing legislation of senator Edward Brooke, sometimes garnered support from outside the Republican Party, especially among the black press, Democratic officials, and constituents of all races. Moving beyond traditional liberalism and conservatism, black Republicans sought to address African American racial experiences in a distinctly Republican way.

The Loneliness of the Black Republican provides a new understanding of the interaction between African Americans and the Republican Party, and the seemingly incongruous intersection of civil rights and American conservatism.

In today's world of constant identification checks, it's difficult to recall that there was ever a time when "proof of identity" was not a part of everyday life. And as anyone knows who has ever lost a passport, or let one expire on the eve of international travel, the passport has become an indispensable document. But how and why did this form of identification take on such a crucial role? In the first history of the passport in the United States, Craig Robertson offers an illuminating account of how this document, above all others, came to be considered a reliable answer to the question: who are you? Historically, the passport originated as an official letter of introduction addressed to foreign governments on behalf of American travelers, but as Robertson shows, it became entangled in contemporary negotiations over citizenship and other forms of identity documentation. Prior to World War I, passports were not required to cross American borders, and while some people struggled to understand how a passport could accurately identify a person, others took advantage of this new document to advance claims for citizenship. From the strategic use of passport applications by freed slaves and a campaign to allow married women to get passports in their maiden names, to the "passport nuisance" of the 1920s and the contested addition of photographs and other identification technologies on the passport, Robertson sheds new light on issues of individual and national identity in modern U.S. history. In this age of heightened security, especially at international borders, Robertson's The Passport in America provides anyone interested in questions of identification and surveillance with a richly detailed, and often surprising, history of this uniquely important document.
Opposite Poles presents a fascinating and complex portrait of ethnic life in America. The focus is Chicago Polonia, the largest Polish community outside of Warsaw. During the 1980s a new cohort of Polish immigrants from communist Poland, including many refugees from the Solidarity movement, joined the Polish American ethnics already settled in Chicago. The two groups shared an ancestral homeland, social space in Chicago, and the common goal of wanting to see Poland become an independent noncommunist nation. These common factors made the groups believe they ought to work together and help each other; but they were more often at opposite poles. The specious solidarity led to contentious conflicts as the groups competed for political and cultural ownership of the community.

Erdmans's dramatic account of intracommunity conflict demonstrates the importance of distinguishing between immigrants and ethnics in American ethnic studies. Drawing upon interviews, participant observation in the field, surveys and Polish community press accounts, she describes the social differences between the two groups that frustrated unified collective action.

We often think of ethnic and racial communities as monolithic, but the heterogeneity within Polish Chicago is by no means unique. Today in the United States new Chinese, Israeli, Haitian, Caribbean, and Mexican immigrants negotiate their identities within the context of the established identities of Asians, Jews, Blacks, and Chicanos. Opposite Poles shows that while common ancestral heritage creates the potential for ethnic allegiance, it is not a sufficient condition for collective action.

America is famously known as a nation of immigrants. Millions of Europeans journeyed to the United States in the peak years of 1892–1924, and Ellis Island, New York, is where the great majority landed. Ellis Island opened in 1892 with the goal of placing immigration under the control of the federal government and systematizing the entry process. Encountering Ellis Island introduces readers to the ways in which the principal nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American portal for Europeans worked in practice, with some comparison to Angel Island, the main entry point for Asian immigrants.

What happened along the journey? How did the processing of so many people work? What were the reactions of the newly arrived to the process (and threats) of inspection, delays, hospitalization, detention, and deportation? How did immigration officials attempt to protect the country from diseased or "unfit" newcomers, and how did these definitions take shape and change? What happened to people who failed screening? And how, at the journey's end, did immigrants respond to admission to their new homeland?

Ronald H. Bayor, a senior scholar in immigrant and urban studies, gives voice to both immigrants and Island workers to offer perspectives on the human experience and institutional imperatives associated with the arrival experience. Drawing on firsthand accounts from, and interviews with, immigrants, doctors, inspectors, aid workers, and interpreters, Bayor paints a vivid and sometimes troubling portrait of the immigration process.

In reality, Ellis Island had many liabilities as well as assets. Corruption was rife. Immigrants with medical issues occasionally faced a hostile staff. Some families, on the other hand, reunited in great joy and found relief at their journey's end.

Encountering Ellis Island lays bare the profound and sometimes-victorious story of people chasing the American Dream: leaving everything behind, facing a new language and a new culture, and starting a new American life.

In 1940, Phoenix was a small, agricultural city of sixty-five thousand, and the Navajo Reservation was an open landscape of scattered sheepherders. Forty years later, Phoenix had blossomed into a metropolis of 1.5 million people and the territory of the Navajo Nation was home to two of the largest strip mines in the world. Five coal-burning power plants surrounded the reservation, generating electricity for export to Phoenix, Los Angeles, and other cities. Exploring the postwar developments of these two very different landscapes, Power Lines tells the story of the far-reaching environmental and social inequalities of metropolitan growth, and the roots of the contemporary coal-fueled climate change crisis.

Andrew Needham explains how inexpensive electricity became a requirement for modern life in Phoenix—driving assembly lines and cooling the oppressive heat. Navajo officials initially hoped energy development would improve their lands too, but as ash piles marked their landscape, air pollution filled the skies, and almost half of Navajo households remained without electricity, many Navajos came to view power lines as a sign of their subordination in the Southwest. Drawing together urban, environmental, and American Indian history, Needham demonstrates how power lines created unequal connections between distant landscapes and how environmental changes associated with suburbanization reached far beyond the metropolitan frontier. Needham also offers a new account of postwar inequality, arguing that residents of the metropolitan periphery suffered similar patterns of marginalization as those faced in America's inner cities.

Telling how coal from Indian lands became the fuel of modernity in the Southwest, Power Lines explores the dramatic effects that this energy system has had on the people and environment of the region.

Josephine Roche (1886–1976) was a progressive activist, New Deal policymaker, and businesswoman. As a pro-labor and feminist member of Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, she shaped the founding legislation of the U.S. welfare state and generated the national conversation about health-care policy that Americans are still having today. In this gripping biography, Robyn Muncy offers Roche’s persistent progressivism as evidence for surprising continuities among the Progressive Era, the New Deal, and the Great Society.

Muncy explains that Roche became the second-highest-ranking woman in the New Deal government after running a Colorado coal company in partnership with coal miners themselves. Once in office, Roche developed a national health plan that was stymied by World War II but enacted piecemeal during the postwar period, culminating in Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s. By then, Roche directed the United Mine Workers of America Welfare and Retirement Fund, an initiative aimed at bolstering the labor movement, advancing managed health care, and reorganizing medicine to facilitate national health insurance, one of Roche’s unrealized dreams.

In Relentless Reformer, Muncy uses Roche’s dramatic life story—from her stint as Denver’s first policewoman in 1912 to her fight against a murderous labor union official in 1972—as a unique vantage point from which to examine the challenges that women have faced in public life and to reassess the meaning and trajectory of progressive reform.

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