Fortnightly logo

How Chinese Immigrants Became Model Minorities: Intellectuals, Refugees, and Immigration Selection, 1908-1962

In her Athenaeum talk Madeline Hsu will explore contemporary discussions of immigration controls and reforms through analyzing the dramatic transformation of Chinese immigrants in American society. Before World War II, Chinese immigrants were regarded as a dangerous “yellow peril” and were targeted by the first enforced immigration restrictions passed by Congress. However alongside these restrictions, Chinese students retained rights of entry. This practical selection policy that admitted immigrants based on educational and economic criteria repositioned the Chinese as model immigrants.

Madeline Y. Hsu is Director of the Center for Asian American Studies and Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. She wrote Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration Between the United States and South China, 1882-1943 (Stanford University Press, 2000) which received the 2002 Association for Asian American Studies History Book Award. She is editor of Chinese American Transnational Politics (University of Illinois University Press, 2010) and co-editor with Sucheng Chan of Chinese Americans and the Politics of Culture (Temple University Press, 2008). Her current research project, tentatively titled “Strategic Migrations: Immigration Selection and How the Yellow Peril Became a Model Minority, 1872-1966,” explores intersections between American foreign policy goals, immigration laws and practices, and shifting racial ideologies through the migration of Chinese intellectuals.