Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Settlement: The Limits of Assimilation and Integration

What happened AFTER the immigration stations? In the American myth of the ‘melting pot’, migrants, once admitted to the nation, seamlessly and gratefully gave up their distinctive cultures to become ‘Americans’. It is not uncommon to hear their (supposed or assumed) losses of identity praised by subsequent generations of ‘Anglo-Americans’ and by politicians opposed to immigration and culturally distinctive ethnic communities today. But how was this process experienced, enforced, and resisted – and by whom? Here we will consider the experiences of different communities, both durably racialized and able to resist or reduce their racialization. Once landed, and over the course of several generations, the individuals and families who passed through Angel and Ellis Islands in the first half of the twentieth century built communities and social structures of their own. How did settlement affect their own and their descendants' lives, and their communities' relationships with the US polity? Here we will explore the experiences of minoritized migrant and ethnic groups post-naturalisation, and as they and their US born children established themselves in the United States. Background readings look at other migrant groups.

Powerpoint Reading Guide

Required Readings: -- read Kraut, then one of the Shah pieces.

  • Alan Kraut, ‘Doing as Americans Do: The Post-Migration Negotiation of Identity IN the United States’, Journal of American History 101:3 (2014), 707-725. E Journal and also available as a pdf directly from Warwick Library.

and either

  • Nayan Shah, Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), Chapter 7. ProQuest E-book Central. (There is a lot of detail in this article, but don’t be overwhelmed; read it for the argument and historical patterns, and don’t get bogged down by the individual examples.)


  • Nayan Shah, Contagious divides: epidemics and race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (Berkeley, CA : University of California Press, 2001), Chapter 9, 'Reforming Chinatown' pp. 225-250. (See also Chapter 8, not required for this week but strongly recommended!)

Discussion questions:

  • Consider the roles played by race and health in shaping individuals’ opportunities for movement, settlement and citizenship: do they work in the same way, or are their important differences?
  • What about questions of class or imperial identity: did they affect settlement as much as they did arrival?
  • Was there ever a ‘melting pot’ – and did North Americans actually want one?

Background Readings:

Kornel Chang, "Enforcing Transnational White Solidarity: Asian Migration and the Formation of the US-Canadian Boundary," American Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 3 (2008): 671-96.

Yong Chen, Chinese San Francisco, 1850-1943: A Trans-Pacific Community (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000).

Catherine Ceniza Choy. Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History. American Encounters/Global Interactions. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2003.

Peggy Christoff, 'An Archival Resource: INS Case Files on Chinese Women in the American Midwest', Journal of Women's History, vol. 10 no. 3, 1998, pp. 155-170. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/jowh.2010.0340

Glen Gendzel, ‘Not Just a Golden State: Three Anglo "Rushes" in the Making of Southern California, 1880-1920’, Southern California Quarterly 90, no. 4 (2008): 349-78. US Anglo (internal migration) and the health rush.

David Gerber and Alan M. Kraut, eds, American immigration and ethnicity: a reader (Basingstoke: Palgrave 2007).

Nancy Green, 'A French Ellis Island? Museums, Memory and History in France and the United States', History Workshop Journal, vol. 63 no. 1, 2007, pp. 239-253. Project MUSE,

Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, ‘The Politics of Inclusion: American Muslims and the Price of Citizenship’ in Medhi Bozorgmehr, Philip Kasinitz, eds, Growing Up Muslim in Europe and the United States (London: Routledge, 2018), pp.95-110. E Book.

Hidetaka Hirota, 'Exclusion on the Ground: Racism, Official Discretion, and the Quotidian Enforcement of General Immigration Law in the Pacific Northwest Borderland', American Quarterly, vol. 69 no. 2, 2017, pp. 347-370. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/aq.2017.0031

Alan M. Kraut, ‘Foreign Bodies: The Perennial Negotiation over Health and Culture in a Nation of Immigrants’, Journal of American Ethnic History 23 (2004): pp. 3-22. Electronic Journal.

Estelle T. Lau, Paper Families: Identify, Immigration Administration, and Chinese Exclusion, (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006).

Erika Lee, “A History Lesson for Donald Trump,” New York Daily News, August 18, 2015

Erika Lee and Judy Yung, Angel Island Immigrant Gateway to America (Oxford: OUP, 2010). (reviewed here: Erika Lee, 'Chinese San Francisco, China in America', Reviews in American History, vol. 29 no. 3, 2001, pp. 417-423. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/rah.2001.0048)

Krista Maglen, ‘Importing Trachoma: The Introduction into Britain of American Ideas of an 'Immigrant Disease', 1892-1906’, Immigrants & Minorities 23 (2005): pp 80–99.

Howard Markel, Alexandra Minna Stern, ‘The Foreignness of Germs: The Persistent Association of Immigrants and Disease in American Society’, Milbank Quarterly 80 (2002): 757, SwetsWise.

Adam McKeown,”Conceptualizing Chinese Diasporas, 1842 to 1949,” Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 58, No. 2 (1999): 306-337.

Natalia Molina , Fit to Be Citizens? Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1939 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006).

Anna Pegler-Gordon, 'Chinese Exclusion, Photography, and the Development of U.S. Immigration Policy', American Quarterly, vol. 58 no. 1, 2006, pp. 51-77. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/aq.2006.0032

Robert Shaffer, '“A Missionary from the East to Western Pagans”: Kagawa Toyohiko’s 1936 U.S. Tour.' Journal of World History, vol. 24 no. 3, 2013, pp. 577-621. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/jwh.2013.0071

Nayan Shah, Stranger Intimacy : Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012) – NB: particularly useful for explorations of how sexuality and different kinds of sexual relationships functioned as barriers or aids to inclusion.

Nayan Shah, ‘Race-ing Sex’, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 35, no. 1 (2014): 26-36. (accessed August 22, 2019). (This review article will help students interested in the history of sexuality build a wider sense of the literature as it pertains to this module).

Alexandra Minna Stern, Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), esp. Chapter 1.

Cecilia Tsu, Garden of the World: Asian Immigrants and the Making of Ariculture in California's Santa Clara Valley (Oxford: OUP, 2013).

Celia M. Tsu, Garden of the World: Asian Immigrants and the Making of Agriculture in California's Santa Clara Valley (2013) Chapter 5, 'From Menace to Model, pp 139-166. E-Book.

Scott Wong, 'The Transformation of Culture: Three Chinese Views of America', American Quarterly, vol. 48 no. 2, 1996, pp. 201-232. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/aq.1996.0022 -- NB: Looks at the impact of visits and immigration to the USA on China, offering a useful alternative perspective.

E-Resources: See last week.

Background readings on other ethnic groups:

Elena Barabantseva, 'Messengers from the US-Chinese Past', Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol. 75 no. 2, 2015, pp. 441-450. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/jas.2015.0033

Jason O. Chang, 'Racial Alterity in the Mestizo Nation', Journal of Asian American Studies, vol. 14 no. 3, 2011, pp. 331-359. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/jaas.2011.0038

Soo-Young Chin & Peter Feng, & Josephine Lee, 'Asian American Cultural Production', Journal of Asian American Studies, vol. 3 no. 3, 2000, pp. 269-282. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/jaas.2000.0030

Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, new edition (New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2012).

Amy Fairchild, Science at the Borders: Imigrant Medical Inspection and the Shaping of the Modern Industrial Labor Force(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).

Madeline Y. Hsu, The Good Immigrants: How the Yellow Peril Became the Model Minority (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015).

Franca Iacovetta, Gatekeepers: Reshaping Immigrant Lives in Cold War Canada (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2006).

**Robert G Lee, 'The Cold War Origins of the Model Minority Myth' in Jean Yu-Wen Shen Wu, and Thomas Chen, eds, Asian American Studies Now: A Critical Reader (Rutgers University Press, 2010), 256-271. E-book Note that this volume also contains lots of material on the experiences of other Asian American groups.

Nancy Ordover, ‘National Hygiene: Twentieth Century Immigration and the Eugenics Lobby’, in Ordover, American Eugenics: Queer Anatomy and the Science of Nationalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003) pp. 1-56.

Jeannie N. Shinozuka, 'Deadly Perils: Japanese Beetles and the Pestilential Immigrant, 1920s–1930s', American Quarterly, vol. 65 no. 4, 2013, pp. 831-852. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/aq.2013.0056

Emma Jinhua Teng, Eurasian: Mixed Identities in the United States, China, and Hong Kong, 1842–1943 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).

Cecilia Tsu, Garden of the World: Asian Immigrants and the Making of Ariculture in California's Santa Clara Valley (Oxford: OUP, 2013).

Wald, 'Communicable Americanism: Contagion, Geographic Fictions, and the Sociological Legacy of Robert E. Park', American Literary History14.4 (2002): 653-685. Project MUSE. Web. 17 Aug. 2016. <>.

Xiao-huang Yin, "Changes and Continuity in Chinese American Philanthropy to China: A Case Study of Chinese American Transnationalism," American Studies 45.2 (summer 2004): 57-91.

And for an interesting comparison:

Feng Hou, The resettlement of Vietnamese refugees across Canada over three decades 2017 URL: