Navigation – Plan du site

Dirty, Diseased and Demented: The Irish, the Chinese, and Racist Representation

Gregory B. Lee

Résumé

The alien, the foreigner, the outsider have been historically represented as unclean, sick, contagious, and mentally unsound. In the nineteenth century, the British and American imaginaries framed both the Irish and the Chinese in such terms, even though it was primarily the Irish who staffed Britain’s imperial armies, and the Chinese who manned its merchant ships, washed it sailors’ clothes, and dug its trenches. The sexual union of both Irish and Chinese with British or American women was particularly feared, and the hybrid child seen as especially mentally unstable and undesirable. The discursive and institutional treatment of “the Irish” and “the Chinese” was not an isolated practice, and would be reapplied to other ethnic groups in both the USA and the UK right into the present century, as the UK Home office’s treatment of the British citizens of Caribbean origin has illustrated.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

Chinese
Japanese
Dirty knees
Look at these

  • 1 Hundreds of contemporary renditions are to be found on Youtube.

Popular American ditty1

  • 2 Adrian Forty, Objects of Desire: Design and Society since 1750, London & New York: Thames and Hudso (...)
  • 3 Jean Baudrillard, Le système des objets [The system; of objects], Paris, Gallimard, 1978, p. 41.
  • 4 Christian Enzensberger, Grösserer Versuch über den Schmutz [Expanded Essay on Dirt] (Munich, 1968) (...)
  • 5 Enzensberger in Theweleit I, 385.

1That the poor, the marginalized, and the foreign are dirty, contagious, and mentally inferior is a longstanding commonplace. The nineteenth-century rise of science saw the invention of scientific hygiene and the modern preoccupation with cleanliness. It became obsessional with the twentieth-century transformation of science into technology and the emergence of the mass consumer society, with dirt becoming "matter out of place", dirt being "the label we attach to what we perceive as disorder".2 Indeed, Baudrillard spoke of “functional” cleanliness.3 What was new was necessarily clean, and the old ‘naturally’ associated with decay. The privatization of daily life that technological consumerism ushered in, the individualization of consumption of all types, could only aggravate clean individuals’ fear of the "dirt of the mass," and their loathing for "anything that throngs or sprawls, any mass in which they might become caught up and irretrievably lost."4 Dirt, then, would become "anything that impinges...on the person's anxiously guarded autonomy."5

The Irish

2In the bourgeois dominant imaginary of the nineteenth century the poor, the working class, the common people were depicted as sickly and dirty with an array of metaphors and commonplaces which were easily transferable to immigrant ethnic groups, first among whom were the Irish poor who found themselves starved into taking refuge in Britain in horrendous insanitary conditions as bad as or worse than that of the northern English workers we may read of in such novels as Gaitskell's Mary Barton (1848). Ill-health and a lack of hygiene were no inherent trait of the Irish working class, but simply a corollary of a social condition to which they had been condemned.

  • 6 Christine Kinealy, This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-52, Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1994, (...)

3At the end of the eighteenth century the size of Ireland's population, four million, was more than half of England's seven million. This was in large part due to the cultivation of the potato from the 1720s onwards; the potato increased the nutritive capacity of a patch of land by a factor of three. The population thus doubled between 1780 and 1831 when it stood at almost 8m. But Ireland's population soon went into steep decline and twenty years later had fallen to 6.5m. The potato blight of 1845, 1846 and 1848 attacked the foundation of Ireland's population growth. Famine, which the British authorities did little to attenuate, saw almost a million people starve to death between 1845 and 1855, and accounted for the emigration of two million people.6

  • 7 While large but unquantified numbers moved to the British 'mainland' between 1841 and 1925 there wa (...)

4As a consequence, no middle to large size English town was without an Irish community and the impoverished Irish labourer was absorbed into England's industrial development and the military expansion of its Empire. Whilst the British Army was already heavily dependent on Irish recruits, by 1830 Irishmen constituted 42 per cent of Britain's long-service army. They were employed not only in maintaining order in Ireland, but also in advancing Britain's interests in the colonies, especially in India, and in Britain's Opium War of 1839-42 against the Manchu dynasty.7

  • 8 John Beddoe, The Races of Britain, London, Trübner & Co., 1885, Chapter XIV passim.
  • 9 G. R. Gair, "The Irish Immigration Question" in The Liverpool Review Vol IX, Nos.1-3 (January-March (...)
  • 10 Pierre-André Taguieff, La force du préjugé : Essai sur le racisme et ses doubles (Paris: Éditions L (...)

5Irish immigrants were often the object of a racist discourse of denigration. From the mid-eighteenth century onwards the scientific evolutionary debate in Britain saw scientifically justified racists frequently comparing Irish people to monkeys. Charles Kingsley, author of The Water Babies, famously wrote from Ireland in 1860: “I am haunted by the human chimpanzees I saw along that hundred miles of horrible country...to see white chimpanzees is dreadful; if they were black, one would not see it so much, but their skins...are as white as ours.” In the dominant English imaginary, the Irish were indeed seen as black. John Beddoe, sometime President of the Anthropological Institute (1889-1891), wrote in his monumental an authoritative Races of Britain published in 1862, that all men of superior race were orthognathous -- had less prominent jaw bones--, while the Irish and the Welsh were prognathous. He also held that the Celt was closely related to Cromagnon man, who was, in turn, "Africanoid."8 Seventy years later, in 1934, G. R. Gair, of the Scottish Anthropological Society, could still claim that while most of the inhabitants of the British Isles belong to the "tall, stolid, phlegmatic northern race," the "Nordic race," in the "western part of the British Isles we have a branch of the Mediterranean race" and a consequently "marked distinction in mental outlook and culture." It was also held that the Irish possessed "a higher ratio of criminals", and that "possibly also to inherent racial reasons, it is also an ascertained fact that the Irish are more subject to certain diseases than the Nordics;" and "insanity, and other undesirable features, are greatest...in those classes in which the Irish form the greater section of the population."9 The Irish then were deemed mentally and physically sicker than other "races", in particular to what was called the "Nordic race-type". This is a recurrent representation of the migrant, the foreigner, the marginalized, the poor: "inferior elements (degenerate, mentally deficient: the biosocial 'waste')" threatening the cleanliness and well-being of the healthy national body.10 Contact with the alien body implied contamination and contagion. Feared most was the hybrid body, the biological product of "intermingling". Such hybridity presented a threat to the "purety of the race". In the UK, the restrictive immigration and segregation policies of the United States of America were seen as appropriate measures for dealing with unwelcome and unhealthy immigration:

  • 11 Gair, The Liverpool Review Vol IX, No.3 (March 1934) 13.

The United States, seeing her institutions likely to crumble before this menace, and with the glaring of the deleterious effects of "wops" "dagoes" and Irish, in her lower orders, has with admirable courage, closed the doors and adopted a policy which aims at the maintenance of the Nordic race-type.11

  • 12 Gair, The Liverpool Review Vol IX, No.3 (March 1934) 88.

6While economic arguments for exclusion were often deployed, the greatest concern was the threat of contamination, the fear of racial purity being diluted and resulting in "the propagation of a strongly tainted blood stream."12

  • 13 Gair, The Liverpool Review Vol IX, No.2 (February 1934) 49.

7Present-day racist and ideologues and xenophobes would recognize their own discursive flourishes in the language of 1930s Europe and America: It was a discourse in which segregation was offered as "the only solution." Were the Nordic British to have "the courage and the clear-sightedness of the Americans and introduce some race legislation," then "the heart of the one Empire", the British Empire, could be saved and thus be "of real world-service for humanity free from a cancerous decay." Once more the Other, here the Irish, is represented as an alien dangerous disease, a "cancerous decay", which impinges upon the integrity, cleanliness and virility of the national body.13

The Chinese

  • 14 See Gregory B. Lee, China Imagined: From Western Fantasy to Spectacular Power, London, Hurst, 2018.

8Starting in the mid-nineteenth century and coinciding with the American post-civil war movement to exclude “Chinese” from United States territory and citizenship, we see a racist discourse, similar to that used against the Irish, being employed against those fleeing the poverty and starvation brought about by the Opium Wars. In fact, those denigrated were subjects of the Manchu dynasty. The country called China as such did not exist as a national polity as of yet, and even in the collective imaginary of the illiterate elite the idea of ‘China’, increasingly translated as Zhongguo 中國, was a recent one.14 But in the Western imaginary ‘China’ had existed since the sixteenth century, and while in earlier centuries there was a fanciful fascination with this distant Oriental country, in the era of capitalist modernity China and its people would be construed as unhealthy, and decadent.

9There was one dominant source for late nineteenth century and early twentieth-century “ethnographic” knowledge about China and Chinese; both high-brow and popular writers on China relied on a set of stereotypes first popularized by an American missionary, Arthur Smith in his 1890 work Chinese Characteristics in which Smith is at pains to emphasize the ‘racial’ difference of the ‘Chinaman’. The depiction is largely negative. The mental capacities and mode of thought are commented on in particular by Smith. Here he describes the “deficiencies” of the Chinese mind:

  • 15 Arthur H. Smith, Chinese Characteristics, Shanghai: North China Herald office, 1890; London: Kegan (...)

He does not understand, because he does not expect to understand, and it takes him an appreciable time to get such intellectual forces as he has, into a position to be used at all. His mind is like a rusty old smooth-bore cannon mounted on an old decrepit carriage… Another mark of intellectual torpor is the inability of an ordinary mind to entertain an idea, and then pass it on to another in its original shape.15

  • 16 See Gregory B. Lee, China Imagined, passim.

10In true Orientalist fashion, anything positive about China was projected into its past, while its contemporary population were deemed decadent, decrepit and sickly, and unsuited to the challenges of modernity. The authentic China, which let us recall did not take form as a nation-state until the twentieth century, was thus constructed by dominant Western discourse as a thing of the past.16 Even, over four decades after the appearance of Smith’s book, a French China specialist who was already credited with numerous publications about China, Jean Rodes, could write:

  • 17 Jean Rodes, À travers la Chine actuelle, Paris: Fasquelle, 1932, p. 172: ‘Le pouvoir de contrôle du (...)

The power of control over the brain being less developed in the Chinese, he, under certain conditions of agitation, is overtaken by all sorts of subconscious and uncontrolled reflexes of dorsal column automatism … [in which can be seen] a cause of racial inferiority, which had so charmed Count Gobineau.17

11The reference to Gobineau in a text written in the 1930s might seem from today’s perspective both ominous and perverse. When in 1932 Rodes employed those words, Hitler was rising to power, and in the following year would gain plenary powers, bolstered by the banalization of late nineteenth-century racist ideology. Arthur de Gobineau’s nineteenth-century theories of scientific racism, and his celebrated, later infamous, theories glorifying the Aryan master race, had already helped legitimize and justify nineteenth-century colonialist expansion in Africa and Asia. His writings influenced the anti-Semitic stance adopted by the composer Richard Wagner, and was later, in a redacted form, required reading for German Nazi party members and leadership. Gobineau was convinced, as was his acolyte Wagner, that China would invade Europe, and thus he was instrumental in spreading amongst the German aristocracy and beyond a fear of “the Chinese”; a fear that was constructed and reified as the ‘Yellow Peril’.

12Western racist literary and journalistic representations thus straddled the end of the Qing and the early decades of the Republic of China. For the hawker of racist stereotypes, little if anything had changed; it was after all the West that had invented ‘China’, the ‘Chinese’ and, of course, ‘the Chinaman’. With the legitimation of racism as scientific, Europe—soon to be followed by Japan and the United States—had entered a new phase of colonialism marked by imperialist territorial and economic expansion, driven by an industrial capitalist modernity that required resources and markets, but which also needed to bolster xenophobic nationalist ideology. The nineteenth century, then, saw confrontation between imperialist powers, particularly Britain, on the one hand and the Qing dynasty on the other.

13In the second half of the nineteenth century, a period coinciding with the Opium Wars and their aftermath, the campaign against the presence of Chinese in the USA gained momentum and would lead to the passing of the 1870 Naturalization Act and the Exclusion Act of 1882. Media representation of “the Chinese” was particularly virulent:

  • 18 New York Daily Tribune, September 29, 1854, page 4.

They [the Chinese] are uncivilized, unclean, filthy beyond all conception, without any of the higher domestic or social relations; lustful and sensual in their dispositions; every [italicized in original] female is a prostitute, and of the basest order; the first words of English they learn are terms of obscenity or profanity, and beyond this they care to learn no more. […T]he Chinese quarter of the city [San Francisco] is a by-word for filth and sin.18

  • 19 New York Daily Tribune, September 29, 1854, page 4.
  • 20 New York Daily Tribune, September 29, 1854, page 4.

14The touchstone words for establishing or reaffirming in the mind of the reader the state of abject uncleanliness that is the leitmotif of the racist stereotype, are all present in this paragraph: “unclean”, “filthy beyond all conception”, “filth and sin”; “sin” because as common ideology has it “cleanliness is next to godliness”. But the Chinese are “pagan in religion” and “know not the virtues of honesty, integrity or good faith”.19 The significance of this religious difference is made explicit in elsewhere in the same editorial: “Any of the Christian races are welcome… or any of the white races. They all assimilate with Americans...and are gradually all fused together in one homogenous mass.”20 The heathenism of “the Chinese” contributes to their heterogeneity and renders them incapable of fusing into the “homogenous mass”. The argument advanced in mid-nineteenth-century America was that the Chinese were too different and too numerous to be assimilated. In other words to prevent the Chinese becoming, like the "Negro" and the "Indian," an internal Other, deportation and exclusion were the only remedies.

15In the Tribune editorial cited above, the phobia of death by drowning in an alien and unclean fluid is brought into play. The fear of fluids is imbricated with, and predicated upon, the fear of contamination, the terror of being made unclean by the filthy and sick. Foregrounding fears of dirt and contamination, the New York Daily Tribune, depicts a youthful, promising California facing the yellow contagion of "Asiatic hordes" of a politically decadent, physically decaying, and morally degenerate Celestial Empire just across the sea.

  • 21 Pierre-André Taguieff, La force du préjugé: Essai sur le racisme et ses doubles (Paris: Éditions La (...)
  • 22 Albert Memmi, Le Racisme (Paris: Gallimard, collection "Idées," 1982) 118. Cited in Taguieff 29.
  • 23 Taguieff 29-30.
  • 24 New York Daily Tribune September 29, 1854, page 4.
  • 25 Taguieff 30.

16What is manifested here is a racism based not only on negative characteristics, but on the "absolute negation of difference." 21 What Albert Memmi describes as a biological ideology of "heterophobia".22 Heterophobia "presupposes a negative evaluation of all difference" and implies an ideal, explicit or not, of "homogeneity."23 In the text cited, "any of the white races," were preferable to the Chinese immigrant, since they "all assimilate...and are gradually all fused together in one homogenous mass".24 Heterophobia embraces a desire to "abolish the difference between Us and Them" by either assimilation, or extermination, or to erase difference by eugenic or educational means, to "efface the existence of the Other, (render the Other invisible or blind oneself to his existence) by rigorous separation of an apartheid type".25

  • 26 New York Times, September 3, 1865, page 1.

17Privileging the ideological over the economic, despite the need for reconstruction after the all too recent American Civil War, the New York Times of Sunday, 3 September, 1865, opined that while the "tide of Chinese emigration to America," might be "profitable to the dominant race": “[Nevertheless] we are utterly opposed to...any extensive emigration of Chinamen or other Asiatics to any part of the United States.” 26 There are "other points of national well-being to be considered beside the sudden development of material wealth," in particular, "the moral welfare of the country." The editorial continues:

  • 27 New York Times, September 3, 1865, page 1.

The security of free institutions is more important than the enlargement of its population. The maintenance of an elevated national character is of higher value than mere growth in physical power....with Oriental thoughts will necessarily come Oriental social habits.... We have four millions of degraded negroes in the South...and if, in addition...there were to be a flood-tide of Chinese population--a population befouled with all the social vices...with heathenish souls and heathenish propensities, whose character, and habits, and modes of thought are firmly fixed by the consolidating influence of ages upon ages -- we should be prepared to bid farewell to republicanism and democracy.27

Irish versus Chinese

  • 28 The Irish Citizen [New York] 9 July 1890.

18Since both Irish and Chinese suffered the consequences of very similar British and American racist discourses, a show of solidarity between the two might have been expected. However, in a USA swept up in its anti-Chinese immigration campaign, the leaders of the Irish community took advantage of the situation in order to gain greater acceptance for themselves. A publication devoted to the Irish community, The Irish Citizen, a journal that promoted Irish immigration to the USA and the protection of Irish immigrant labour, on 9 July 1870, demanded that a policy of racial rather than ethnic discrimination be implemented as the foundation of United States immigration policy: “We want white people to enrich the country, not Mongolians to degrade and disgrace it.”28

19The term "Mongolians" was frequently used well into the twentieth century, as a synonym for what was understood as “the Chinese”, and encompassed on occasion other East Asians and South-East Asians. The Irish Citizen's recommendation with regard to "Mongolians," would be legitimated five days later, when on Independence Day 1870, the Naturalization Act was passed. It excluded “Chinese”from naturalization as US citizens. In the same act, another clause finally allowed Americans of African descent the legal right to citizenship. The degradation suffered by African Americans was thus re-inscribed onto the body of the "Celestial" Other. This act of substitution, this institutionalizing of racist ideology, re-empowered the exclusion movement. The movement was supported by liberal and conservative, capital and labour, Anglo and non-Anglo-American, alike.

  • 29 American Catholic Quarterly Review, 1879, IV, p. 249.
  • 30 American Catholic Quarterly Review, 1879, IV, p. 253.

20The supposedly liberal Irish American historian, James Gilmary Shea, writing, three years before the Exclusion Act was passed, in the American Catholic Quarterly Review of 1879, urged that alongside paupers, lechers, Mormons, and utopian socialists, the Chinese should be excluded from the United States. Shea conceded that although crime and vice could be found amongst the Irish community, such behaviour was due entirely to poverty, since by nature the Irishman was "pure, virtuous, healthy in body and mind".29 But as for “Chinese labour”, were it “a pure element, healthy in body and in morals, it would be bad enough, but it is essentially demoralizing… [and] the fact remains that the Chinese element introduces new forms of vice”.30

Mental Instability and the Hybrid “Eurasian”

21The white man is necessarily decent, for he is white. The ‘half-caste’ is indecent because existing in an in-between state. Our Scottish anthropologist again:

  • 31 G. R. Gair, The Liverpool Review Vol IX, No.1 (January 1934) p. 12.

It is a notorious fact that really hybrid peoples are incapable of stability.... Remember that this, after all, is a biological question, and one only capable of solution in accordance with the known laws of science...mix two races and there is bound to be a falling apart, a crumbling of the national edifice, and just because the iron and clay will not amalgamate. The Eurasian, in his physical aspect alone, provides (even when social disabilities are discounted) an example of the evils arising from racial promiscuity. It is therefore clear that relative purity is something to be desired...31

22Here, the ‘physical aspect’, the all too visible in-betweenness of the "Eurasian," is understood as reinforcing the unwelcome nature of hybridity, and its "evils arising from racial promiscuity”, sexual intercourse between different “races”.

  • 32 The Liverpool Diocesan Review [formerly The Liverpool Review] Vol. X, No. 8 (August 1935), 589.

23In Liverpool a local parish priest, the Reverend Bates, vicar of St. Michael’s church located in the midst of Chinatown, wrote that “the question of mixed marriages, and illicit unions is very much to the fore in a quarter like this."32 Reverend Bates is particularly concerned by the specificity the cognitive capacities and hidden thoughts of “half-caste” children:

  • 33 The Liverpool Diocesan Review, Vol. X, No. 8 (August 1935), 590.

The children… speak English, but their mode of thought is Eastern. Their real ego is wrapped in an impenetrable silence, and whilst lips speak, the face is a mask, so different from the spontaneous frankness so delightful in English children.33

  • 34 The Liverpool Diocesan Review, Vol. X, No. 8 (August 1935), 590.

24But for the vicar of Chinatown, the problems of being of ‘mixed race’ become even more pronounced “at the marriage age”: “‘If only God had made me white' is the bitter cry of the half-caste girl in love with a decent white man.”34

25Many of the women that Chinese men married were often poor, and many, indeed, were ethnically Irish. Often family reactions were hostile. In America, in 1922, Congress passed the Cable Act removing from a woman her nationality were she to marry an alien Chinese, Korean or Japanese. In Britain the immigration laws were just as severe. A woman forfeited her citizenship by marrying a foreigner and was required to register as an alien. This legislative, bureaucratic transformation of the white woman into an alien was a means of resolving the problem of hybridity by means of a legal sleight of hand. Women who married Chinese men simply found themselves excluded from the national body. Their deliberate act of joining themselves to an alien, this act of being “UnAmerican” or "unEnglish" was punished by excision from the white body, which was thus saved from contamination.

  • 35 During the war Chinese seamen were paid around half the wage paid to white seamen. This was a vast (...)

26The British authorities, especially the Home Office, were always very imaginative in devising bureaucratic instruments to exclude and excise. After the Second World War, when the shipping companies and the UK government had no further need of Chinese seamen, the Home Office devised a plan to deport them that depended on their legal status, or terms of landing, being varied.35 In other words retrospectively they were to be declared to no longer have residence rights and therefore to be illegal overstayers if they failed to leave voluntarily. The recalcitrant could thus be served with deportation orders. This ruse dealt with the technical aspect, but the discursive case for their removal still needed to be made, even in committees whose minutes would remain secret for sixty years. And so the denigratory representation that was deployed throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was once again brought into play:

  • 36 The National Archives of the UK (TNA), HO 213/926 C491519 "Note of Meeting held at Home Office Oct. (...)

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the repatriating the Chinese seamen onshore at Liverpool. Mr. Holmes [Immigration Officer, Liverpool] said that there were altogether 2,000 Chinese seamen there….That they were an undesirable element in Liverpool was shown by the fact that in the last three years there had been 1,000 convictions for opium smoking and 350 convictions for gaming among the Chinese. Over half were suffering from V.D. [venereal disease] and half from T.B. [tuberculosis]. The Liverpool authorities were anxious to secure the use of the housing accommodation which the Chinese occupied.36

27Gambling, drug addiction, licentiousness leading to sexually transmitted disease, and endemic sickness are all mentioned in this Home Office minute. It builds up, insidiously but seemingly irrefutably, a picture of a contagious, “undesireable element” that needed to be removed.

  • 37 Gregory B. Lee, Chinas Unlimited: Making the Imaginaries of Chia and Chineseness, Honolulu, Univers (...)
  • 38 See Virginia Berridge, Opium of the People: Opiate use in nineteenth-century England, London: Allen (...)

28Opium-smoking is represented here, as it commonly was in the twentieth century, as a specifically Chinese "vice", but as I ever demonstrated elsewhere, until the mid-nineteenth century the consumption of opium had been overwhelmingly a British scourge, and only became a Chinese health issue once the British had dispatched gunboats to open up China to its importation from British India.37 Thus even the accusation of "opium addict" can only be arrived at by British voices suffering from amnesia or ignorance, or worse from hypocrisy and bad faith.38

  • 39 TNA, HO 213/926 "Note of Meeting held at Home Office Oct. Nineteenth 1945: Repatriation of Chinese (...)

29In the same Home Office Chinese Seamen’s repatriation minute, we discover that not only are the seamen considered to be an “undesirable element”, but their partners were too: “117 of the [Liverpool] Chinamen had British born wives. Many of the wives were of the prostitute class”.39

  • 40 The Windrush generation refers to overseas British Caribbeans encouraged to come to the UK in the 1 (...)

30The mass deportation of seamen from China legally settled in the United Kingdom took place in 1945-47, right after the conclusion of the Second World War. It was a war, unlike World War One, in which the USA and the UK and their allies were supposedly fighting against fascism, against the racist ideology of Nazism, and for democracy and freedom. There was much to be done after the war in the UK and the rest of Europe by way of reconstruction, so why then consecrate so much reflection and so man ressources to the eviction of these men from the UK? For here we find, a Home Office, a police force, the Special Branch, and the entire UK shipping industry working concertedly to eliminate an ethnic group by deportation. But it would not be the last time that British authorities rewarded those who had served Britain’s interests would be hounded and deported, as the Windrush generation would come to know only too well.40 Like the Chinese, and the Irish before, having served their purpose, they were ‘out of place’, and deemed ‘undesirable aliens’.

  • 41 Kate Lyons, The Guardian, 6 Oct 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/06/beingmicronesia (...)
  • 42 Kate Lyons in interview with Ongelungel.

31While this article has focussed on historical events and ideology, the representation by the media, and in the dominant collective imaginary, of the immigrant, the foreigner, the stranger as unsuited, unclean, ‘out of place’, dirty is still common currency. For instance, in addition to the widely publicized anti-black and anti-Mexican racism that is still so rampant throughout the USA today, other smaller lower profile minorities more recently arrived are likewise victimized. People from the Pacific islands, collectively known as Macronesia, are berated and insulted; “xenophobia against Micronesian people […being] extremely common in Hawaii and increasingly in parts of the mainland US.”41 As one American of Micronesian descent has said “‘You look Micronesian’ is used as an insult by non-Micronesians, which means you’re dirty”.42

32The recently arrived, the newest strangers, are regarded with most suspicion, as most different, as most unclean, as the dirtiest. They are also, as are the refugees and asylum seekers in present-day Europe and the United States, the most vulnerable.

Haut de page

Notes

1 Hundreds of contemporary renditions are to be found on Youtube.

2 Adrian Forty, Objects of Desire: Design and Society since 1750, London & New York: Thames and Hudson, 1986, 1992, p. 157.

3 Jean Baudrillard, Le système des objets [The system; of objects], Paris, Gallimard, 1978, p. 41.

4 Christian Enzensberger, Grösserer Versuch über den Schmutz [Expanded Essay on Dirt] (Munich, 1968) 23; cited in Theweleit I, 385.

5 Enzensberger in Theweleit I, 385.

6 Christine Kinealy, This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-52, Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1994, 2006, passim.

7 While large but unquantified numbers moved to the British 'mainland' between 1841 and 1925 there was massive emigration beyond Britain's shores: four and three quarter million to the USA, around 75,000 to Canada and almost 400,000 to Australia. By 1911, one third of all people born in Ireland were living abroad.

8 John Beddoe, The Races of Britain, London, Trübner & Co., 1885, Chapter XIV passim.

9 G. R. Gair, "The Irish Immigration Question" in The Liverpool Review Vol IX, Nos.1-3 (January-March 1934).

10 Pierre-André Taguieff, La force du préjugé : Essai sur le racisme et ses doubles (Paris: Éditions La Découverte (Gallimard/tel), 1987) 351.

11 Gair, The Liverpool Review Vol IX, No.3 (March 1934) 13.

12 Gair, The Liverpool Review Vol IX, No.3 (March 1934) 88.

13 Gair, The Liverpool Review Vol IX, No.2 (February 1934) 49.

14 See Gregory B. Lee, China Imagined: From Western Fantasy to Spectacular Power, London, Hurst, 2018.

15 Arthur H. Smith, Chinese Characteristics, Shanghai: North China Herald office, 1890; London: Kegan Paul, 1892, p. 133.

16 See Gregory B. Lee, China Imagined, passim.

17 Jean Rodes, À travers la Chine actuelle, Paris: Fasquelle, 1932, p. 172: ‘Le pouvoir de contrôle du cerveau étant ainsi moins développé chez le Chinois, celui-ci, en certaines circonstances d’excitation, est livré à tous les réflexes inconscients, incontrôlés, de l’automatisme médullaire … [on voit] dans ce fait, une cause irrémédiable d’infériorité de race, qui eût enchanté le comte de Gobineau.’

18 New York Daily Tribune, September 29, 1854, page 4.

19 New York Daily Tribune, September 29, 1854, page 4.

20 New York Daily Tribune, September 29, 1854, page 4.

21 Pierre-André Taguieff, La force du préjugé: Essai sur le racisme et ses doubles (Paris: Éditions La Découverte (Gallimard/tel), 1987) 29.

22 Albert Memmi, Le Racisme (Paris: Gallimard, collection "Idées," 1982) 118. Cited in Taguieff 29.

23 Taguieff 29-30.

24 New York Daily Tribune September 29, 1854, page 4.

25 Taguieff 30.

26 New York Times, September 3, 1865, page 1.

General Lee surrendered to General Grant on 9 April 1865.

27 New York Times, September 3, 1865, page 1.

28 The Irish Citizen [New York] 9 July 1890.

29 American Catholic Quarterly Review, 1879, IV, p. 249.

30 American Catholic Quarterly Review, 1879, IV, p. 253.

31 G. R. Gair, The Liverpool Review Vol IX, No.1 (January 1934) p. 12.

32 The Liverpool Diocesan Review [formerly The Liverpool Review] Vol. X, No. 8 (August 1935), 589.

33 The Liverpool Diocesan Review, Vol. X, No. 8 (August 1935), 590.

34 The Liverpool Diocesan Review, Vol. X, No. 8 (August 1935), 590.

35 During the war Chinese seamen were paid around half the wage paid to white seamen. This was a vast improvement on the situation that pertained before the war. After the end of hostilities, the shipping companies resumed paying the seamen a much lower wage, one on which they could not support a family. Many former seamen now established in the UK thus abandoned the profession. See Home Office papers in National Archives of the UK (TNA), HO 213/926 C491519.

36 The National Archives of the UK (TNA), HO 213/926 C491519 "Note of Meeting held at Home Office Oct. Nineteenth 1945: Repatriation of Chinese Seamen at Liverpool".

37 Gregory B. Lee, Chinas Unlimited: Making the Imaginaries of Chia and Chineseness, Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press, HI, and London, C. Hurst & Co., 2003. See Chapter 3: Addicted, Demented and Taken to the Cleaners, pp. 24-54.

38 See Virginia Berridge, Opium of the People: Opiate use in nineteenth-century England, London: Allen Lane, 1981.

39 TNA, HO 213/926 "Note of Meeting held at Home Office Oct. Nineteenth 1945: Repatriation of Chinese Seamen at Liverpool".

40 The Windrush generation refers to overseas British Caribbeans encouraged to come to the UK in the 1940-1960s for essential employment; the first of those to come did so on the HMT Empire Windrush on 22 June 1948. In 2018 in came to light that a number of the Windrush immigrants hand been wrongly detained and threatened with deportation, and, in some 60 cases wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office. Many of those affected were born British subjects and were thus perfectly entitled to live, work and retire in the UK. See Harriet Agerholm, "Windrush generation: Home Office 'set them up to fail', say MPs". The Independent, 3 July 2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/windrush-home-office-set-them-up-fail-mps-affairs-select-committee-a8428041.html,accessed 10 September 2018.

41 Kate Lyons, The Guardian, 6 Oct 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/06/beingmicronesian-online-hatred-spurs-positive-fightback, last accessed 7 October 2018.

42 Kate Lyons in interview with Ongelungel.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Gregory B. Lee, « Dirty, Diseased and Demented: The Irish, the Chinese, and Racist Representation », Transtext(e)s Transcultures 跨文本跨文化 [En ligne], 12 | 2017, mis en ligne le 24 octobre 2018, consulté le 16 décembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/transtexts/1011 ; DOI : 10.4000/transtexts.1011

Haut de page

Auteur

Gregory B. Lee

Gregory B. Lee is Professor of Chinese and Transcultural Studies at the University of Lyon 3. He is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and of Peking University. He previously taught at the universities of Cambridge, London, Chicago and Hong Kong. His research interests include cultural and intellectual history, Chineseness, the postcolonial, ‘minor’ and ‘marginal’ cultures, diasporic memory and the impact of globalization on all of these. His most recent book is China Imagined: From European Fantasy to Spectacular Power, London, Hurst & Co., 2018.

Articles du même auteur

  • Editorial [Texte intégral]
    English version
    Paru dans Transtext(e)s Transcultures 跨文本跨文化, Hors série | 2008
  • Introduction [Texte intégral]
    Version française
    Paru dans Transtext(e)s Transcultures 跨文本跨文化, Hors série | 2008
  • Editorial [Texte intégral]
    English version
    Paru dans Transtext(e)s Transcultures 跨文本跨文化, 1 | 2006
  • Introduction [Texte intégral]
    Version française
    Paru dans Transtext(e)s Transcultures 跨文本跨文化, 1 | 2006
  • Editorial [Texte intégral]
    English version
    Paru dans Transtext(e)s Transcultures 跨文本跨文化, 2 | 2007
  • Introduction [Texte intégral]
    Version française
    Paru dans Transtext(e)s Transcultures 跨文本跨文化, 2 | 2007
Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

© Tous droits réservés

Haut de page
  • OpenEdition Journals