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"The Chinese Question": Gold Rushes and Global Politics of Exclusion

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, February 7, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1CV008
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$20
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$25
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The Chinese Question by Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly, 1871

In roughly five decades, between 1848 and 1899, more gold was removed from the earth than had been mined in the 3,000 preceding years, bringing untold wealth to individuals and nations. But friction between Chinese and white settlers on the goldfields of California, Australia, and South Africa catalyzed a global battle over the “Chinese Question”: would the United States and the British Empire outlaw Chinese immigration?

Drawing on ten years of research across five continents, historian and author Mae Ngai narrates the story of the thousands of Chinese who left their homeland in pursuit of gold, and how they formed communities and organizations to help navigate their perilous new world. She explains how by the turn of the 20th century, the United States and the British Empire had answered the “Chinese Question” with laws that excluded Chinese people from immigration and citizenship and the resulting consequences and stereotypes that persist to this day.

Ngai is an historian and Lung Family professor of Asian American studies and a professor of history at Columbia University. Her book The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics (W.W. Norton & Company) is available for purchase.

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