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date: 28 October 2020

Eugenics, Reproduction, and Asian American Literaturefree

  • Asha NadkarniAsha NadkarniUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst


Asian American literature has capaciously explored the issues of gender, sexuality, and reproduction that have been so foundational to Asian American racial formation. It has likewise engaged, directly or indirectly, with “eugenics,” a pseudoscience by which nation states sought to improve their populations through managing reproduction. Eugenics, a term coined by Charles Darwin’s cousin Sir Francis Galton in 1883, spans the late 19th to the early 21st centuries, where it continues in the form of population control and the “new” eugenics of genetic and reproductive technologies. In some national sites eugenics was aligned with feminist movements for birth control, whereas in others, such as the United States, they were largely opposed. Nonetheless, eugenic feminists argued that women’s right reproduction was the necessary mechanism by which women should gain rights within the state; as a formation, moreover, eugenic feminism specifically targeted Asian American women as standing in the way of US feminist advance. As such, one of the key ways eugenics was practiced in the United States in relationship to Asian populations was through immigration policy. The history of Asian exclusion in the United States therefore speaks to a larger eugenic project predicated on the notion that Asian immigrants embodied a public health threat in terms of diseases and deviant sexualities of various sorts. The 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act opened up Asian immigration to the United States and also gave rise to a new set of stereotypes, gendered and otherwise, about Asian Americans as model minorities. Asian American literature has critically mined these issues, with some Asian American literature acceding to eugenics by stressing an assimilationist politics and with other works challenging it by critiquing eugenics’ reproductive logic of purity.


  • Literary Studies (American)
  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

The Eaton Sisters: Race, Reproduction, and Eugenics

Ever since Edith Maude Eaton (who published under the pen name Sui Sin Far) was included in the seminal 1974 collection Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers, it has become a critical commonplace to claim her as an Asian American literary and feminist “foremother.”1 For her younger sister, Winnifred Eaton (who published under the name Onoto Watanna), critical attention came later and was far more mixed. Early critical considerations of Edith Eaton tended to paint her as the “good” (political and resistive) Asian American subject as against her “bad” (self-orientalizing) sister. Nonetheless, subsequent criticism complicated this binary by showing how both sisters, in different ways, were prescient and subversive commentators on the gender, racial, and ethnic politics of their time.2 This article begins in the familiar territory of these two most famous Eaton sisters—looking specifically at Far’s essay “Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian” and Watanna’s short story “A Half Caste”—for what they can tell us about foundational and enduring issues surrounding race, reproduction, and feminism in Asian American literary studies.3

Edith (1865–1914) and Winnifred Eaton (1875–1954) were the second and eighth children (of fourteen) born to a Chinese mother (Grace Trefusis) and an English father (Edward Eaton). The family moved back and forth between England, the United States, and Montreal, with most of the sisters’ formative years taking place in Montreal against the backdrop of rampant anti-Chinese sentiment. Accordingly, Far’s essay and Watanna’s short story comment upon attitudes toward Asians (mixed race and otherwise) in North America at the turn of the 20th century. Far’s essay in particular describes her experiences as a “Eurasian” woman, moving locations between Canada, the United States, and Jamaica. Conversely, Watanna’s story takes place entirely in Japan and is a twist on themes popularized by Pierre Loti’s 1893 novel Madam Chrysantheme and John Luther Long’s 1898 short story, “Madame Butterfly.”4 In Watanna’s take on these “love them and leave them” tales, an American sex tourist to Japan falls in love with a woman who turns out to be his own daughter. Thus even though “A Half Caste” deals less directly with North American sentiments about Asia and Asian Americans than “Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian,” those sentiments are the ground from which the story springs.

Far’s “Leaves from a Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian” explicitly addresses attitudes toward the Chinese in North America. In a memorable scene, Far and her brother spy a group of men in a Chinese store—“uncouth specimens of their race” from which Far “recoils.” In the next moment, however, she and her brother engage in a fight with a group of children who shout anti-Chinese epithets at them, which causes Far to exclaim, “I’d rather be Chinese than anything in the world!”5 This complicated moment is one of several in which Far reveals her realization of herself as racially other, her own preconceptions about the Chinese, and her formation as a resistant subject. This formation repeats throughout the essay, as Far repeatedly speaks out to confront prejudices against both the Chinese and mixed-race subjects such as herself.

Watanna’s politics may not be as recognizably resistant, but they nevertheless speak to the comparative racialization of Asians in North America at the beginning of the 20th century. Most notably, Watanna’s masquerade as Japanese indexes the fact that while the Chinese were reviled, the Japanese were looked upon as pleasantly exotic. Indeed, this is something that Far references as well at various points in her essay, most particularly in a confrontation with her employer, who follows assorted racist comments about the Chinese by remarking, “the Japanese are different altogether. There is something bright and likeable about those men.”6 In part, this more positive view of Japan references turn-of-the-century Japonisme (Western fascination with Japan, particularly as expressed in art) and the notion that Japan was properly embracing Western modernity (an idea that becomes complicated through the beginning of the 20th century by Japanese imperialism). Watanna marketed herself as Japanese precisely to appeal to US fascination with Japan, posing for photos in a kimono and writing stories that, on the face of them, were simple orientalist romances. On second glance, however, her revision of the “Madame Butterfly” story in “A Half Caste” indicts both US imperialism and the sexual and racial politics that accompany it. As such, as Melissa Eriko Poulsen argues, “A Half Caste” may be read as a “revenge story” that encodes the ambivalences around both US imperialism and mixed-race Asian children in the US imaginary.7

Indeed, both “Leaves” and “A Half Caste” reference contemporaneous stereotypes about Asian women’s sexual availability. In “Leaves,” Far recounts meeting a naval officer in Jamaica who propositions her by saying, “I will tell you all about the sweet little Chinese girls I met when we were at Hong Kong. They’re not so shy!”8 Similarly, “A Half Caste” opens by remarking on the “weakness” the story’s American protagonist, Norman Hilton, has for “artless, jolly, pretty” Japanese women.9 But just as Far rebuffs the navel officer’s advances, so too does Watanna’s story complicate this opening characterization of Japanese women. When forced to dance for Hilton at the teahouse, the “Half Caste” of the title, Okikusan (“Miss Chrysanthemum,” or Kiku for short), explains that she only does it because “Tha’s worg’ for geisha girl. Whad do you thing we goin’ to git paid for? Account we frown? Or account we laugh? Thad is my work . . . I nod lig vaery much thees worg, but whad kin I do? Thad I nod worgin’ I goin’ to starve.”10 This shows that rather than Japanese women being naturally “artless, jolly, pretty,” they simply make a performance of these attributes. Furthermore, Kiku is fully cognizant that sex tourists like Hilton create the demand for such work in the first place.

“A Half Caste” also remarks upon Kiku’s mixed-race difference from both Japanese and American women, saying that “she said things that no American girl would say, and that few Japanese girls would understand.”11 While this could be read as an instantiation of stereotypes about mixed-race subjects as irreparably different and damaged, it also critiques the imperial and gender politics that create such subjects. In the story’s final moments, Kiku reveals her identity as Hilton’s daughter, showing him her “thick, shining brown curls” and “the white purity of her arms.”12 This ironic invocation both speaks to and undermines eugenicist notions of purity, as in this instance Kiku’s “white purity” is actually the result of miscegenation. This final moment of the story thus links incest and miscegenation as a way of critiquing the gendered forms US imperial incursions into Asia take.13

As this last suggests, both “A Half Caste” and “Leaves” utilize a markedly transnational optic. For one, in addition to being attentive to the workings of US imperialism, each makes reference to British imperial landscapes, with Far alluding to the British civilizing missions in China and to British colonialism in India and Jamaica. Similarly, the opening lines of “A Half Caste” reference British imperialism through the name of the ship on which Hilton arrives in Japan: Empress of India.14 And, as previously discussed, both respond to the racial politics of North America, even though “Leaves” moves between different sites in North America and “A Half Caste” remains in Japan. Furthermore, the transnational scope of these writers’ work highlights the ways that even though they (particularly Far) have been claimed for the cultural nationalist project of creating an Asian American literary canon, their work in fact signals that transnational concerns have been foundational to Asian American literature from the very start.15

Finally, this opening consideration of the Eaton sisters raises the question of what it means to claim them as “foremothers.” On the one hand, the genealogical and reproductive notions that pertain to the idea of feminist foremothers is problematic for what it deems worthy of reproducing or not (which, in a sense, returns us to the idea of Far as a “good” subject and Watanna as a “bad” one.) But, on the other hand, looking more closely into the very notion of these figures as foremothers offers important insights about how to think about reproduction and eugenics within Asian American literature. For one, to claim these writers as “foremothers” is to embrace mixed-race hybridity against eugenicist notions of purity and to do so as a form of critique of purity. As such, both Far and Watanna write against exclusion-era politics in which eugenic solutions to the so-called yellow peril operated through two means: positive eugenic practices by “fit” Americans and exclusionary immigration laws aimed against those deemed “unfit.” The foundational place Far and Watanna occupy in the Asian American literary canon therefore reveals the centrality of these themes in Asian American literary studies, and a reconsideration of their writings opens up the workings of race, reproduction, and eugenics in Asian American literature from its beginnings to the early 21st century.


Related to Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection, eugenics (a neologism derived from Greek and meaning “well-born”) comprises both positive and negative branches. In its positive articulation it is a science of better breeding that encourages reproduction among those of certain classes, races, and abilities. In its negative guise, eugenics is about prohibiting reproduction from those deemed “unfit”—whether for mental, racial, or hygienic reasons. Although eugenics was practiced differently in different national contexts, as a global movement, it expressed the modern injunction to scientific improvement and progress in biological form. In this, eugenics was a utopian project; Francis Galton himself understood it as the humane way to help along the process his cousin, Charles Darwin, had described as “natural selection.” Eugenics thus appealed to social conservatives, progressives, and radicals alike. But, at the same time, eugenics was a violent vision, in which certain peoples and populations were marked out for extinction.

Eugenics as such is commonly understood as falling out of fashion after the Nazis took it to its logical conclusion in World War II. But as scholars such as Daniel Kelves, Mathew Connelly, and others have argued, the central concerns of eugenics (the manipulation of populations in the service of the nation-state, and the creation and deployment of genetic and reproductive technologies) did not simply disappear once the name stopped being used.16 Rather, eugenics—both in terms of ideology and actual personnel—was channeled in other directions. One group of US eugenicists moved into genetic biology while another moved into population demography. These population demographers, as Minna Stern notes in Eugenic Nation, “merged their interest in salvaging and retooling eugenics with the export of Western-led modernization to the Third World.”17 Population control was thus, in turn, taken up by postcolonial national governments as crucial to national development projects. In this, population control was both an expression of negative eugenics and an articulation of how to make “modern” postcolonial nation-states. As demographic-transition theory would have it, rather than development naturally lowering birth rates (an idea expressed in the phrase “development is the best contraceptive”), lowering birth rates through population control would foster development.

Nevertheless, the very interest of eugenicists in “Third World” development signifies a crucial difference between eugenics and population control; namely, the optic is no longer national but global, as population growth in poorer countries becomes a worldwide concern. At first glance this framework seems less divisive than what came before (just as references to “spaceship earth” seem to index a common humanity equally in danger from, and responsible to, the population problem). But in fact the very language of “three worlds” belies the idea of a shared project. Instead, overpopulation in the third world is understood as both endangering the environmental future of the planet and as fomenting communism and increasing global instability.

Therefore, as Alison Bashford details in her epilogue to The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics, the question is less about whether eugenics disappeared in the postwar moment and more about where it went.18 By way of illustration, she traces links between eugenics and debates around transhumanism and posthumanism, genetic counseling, human genetics more generally, and recently developed reproductive technologies. Scholars have deemed many of these genetic and reproductive technologies to be forms of “new” eugenics, taking up the so-called liberal eugenics of new reproductive technologies in particular. This form of eugenics is delinked from the state and is characterized instead by a neoliberal logic in which reproductive technologies are available to all who can afford them. The “new” eugenics, then, seems to be about free choice, but even if it is not necessarily a state-sponsored project, it nonetheless involves the coercions of the market. As such, the new eugenics smooths over the inequalities structurally necessary to globalization and posits a “brave new world” in which those who have access to expensive genetic and reproductive technologies can “improve the life-chances of themselves and their children,” and those who do not have such access cannot. This “privileging of the genes of the privileged,” as Elizabeth Watkins calls it, is a new form of positive eugenics in which the reproduction of the economically “well born” is not only given a distinct advantage but also (as illustrated by the case of transnational surrogacy) often depends upon the economic necessity of those more fertile but less economically well born.19

Chang-rae Lee’s 2014 novel, On Such a Full Sea, grapples with the neoliberal landscape of the new eugenics by projecting it into a dystopian future.20 Lee’s novel takes place in a North America decimated by climate change and disease (the so-called terminal “C” disease that “eventually everyone will express”) and divided into elite Charter communities, communities that produce for the Charters, and lawless open counties.21 The novel is narrated from the first-person plural point of view of the residents of one of these production communities, B-Mor (formally Baltimore), most of whom are descendants of laborers brought from “New China” after “their small riverside town . . . Xixu City was made uninhabitable by the surrounding farms and factories and power plants and mining operations.”22 Embodying a kind of agrarian techno-orientalism, the self-contained community of B-Mor produces fish and vegetables for the Charters and is notable for the regulated and communal lives of its inhabitants; in this sense the name B-Mor is pointedly ironic, as its existence is predicated on its self-regulating residents only being exactly as much as they are allowed to be but never more.23

The deeply stratified landscape of Lee’s novel is defined, among other things, by its inhabitants’ relationship to different forms of precarity: access to therapies to treat C, access to uncontaminated food and water, and guarantees of basic physical safety. For instance, in addition to enjoying bourgeois lifestyles based on hard efforts to maintain conspicuous consumption (“one must continually work and invest and have enough money to sustain a Charter lifestyle or else leave”), Charters can buy “uncontaminated goods from all over the globe” and can extend their lives through treatments for C.24 Even the Charters, however, cannot cheat death, as eventually the therapies themselves lead to what is called the “Crash”: a condition in which all the major organs begin to fail in reaction to the therapies for C. In contrast, residents of communities like B-Mor do not have access to these therapies, but they do have security and community. As our collective narrator explains, “stability is all here in B-Mor; it’s what we ultimately produce, day by night by day, both what we grow for consumption and how we are organized in neighborhood teams.”25 But even this stability, produced in part for consumption by the Charters, is symbiotically tied to the fortunes of the Charters, as the community can only be sustained as long as the Charters demand B-Mor’s products. Even more precariously, access to medical treatment and unadulterated food is scarce in the open counties. The counties are similarly tied into the fate of the Charters in the sense that they are inhabited by “a surprising number of . . . former Charters,” thus illustrating how neoliberal individualism is always operating on the point of crisis.26 As such, Lee’s novel speaks to a biopolitical project in which access to life itself is meted out unequally. Within this scheme, the residents of B-Mor have little control of their lives or their destinies; indeed, as Susette Min argues, “the residents of B-Mor ultimately realize the expendability of their bodies and the devaluation of their lives.”27 Thus, just like the protagonist of the novel, a pregnant sixteen-year-old girl named Fan, is figured as being almost one with the fish that she tends as a diver in B-Mor, the B-Mor residents themselves are in some senses simply a surplus population providing vital energy for life elsewhere.28 In this light, Fan’s decision to kill all of the fish in her tank before leaving B-Mor is simply a violent recognition of the structural position she and all the B-Mor residents inhabit.

The reproductive logic of B-Mor’s necessity and expendability is revealed through the main plot of the novel, which tells how Fan leaves B-Mor in search of her lover Reg. Reg mysteriously disappears from B-Mor after he is found to be C free; the presumption is that he is being tested in the Charters in hopes of finding a cure for C. Fan’s journey takes her through the open counties and eventually to a Charter, where she finds her brother, Oliver, who was selected to live in a Charter because of his academic promise. Fan keeps her pregnancy a secret, but the symbolic importance of it is that the child might also reveal a cure for C. Indeed, this is what Oliver banks on when he attempts to sell Fan to the “pharmacorp, in the hope that someone bearing Reg’s legacies would be fair exchange for the final purchase of his work.”29 Fan is saved by Oliver’s wife, Betty, and the final moments of the novel show her being taken to an unknown destination and future. Fan’s pregnancy, therefore, signifies a reproductive futurism that both moves the novel forward and holds out promise for future generations, even if that promise remains unknown within the space of the novel itself.

Notably, Fan and Reg’s child is explicitly mixed race—while Fan, like most of the inhabitants of B-Mor, is a descendant of workers from New China, Reg is also descended from the original, African American inhabitants of Baltimore and therefore references a longer history of race and class strife. Indeed, the racial makeup of the segmented society in Lee’s novel is referenced throughout. The Charters are explicitly multiracial; upon Fan’s first trip to a Charter, the narrator notes that “there were tallish, attractive people of various races and ethnicities going about.”30 The majority of the residents of B-Mor are ethnically Chinese, and Lee plays with techno-orientalist tropes about the hyperproductivity of Asians in his rendering of B-Mor. Fan’s racialization as such is revealed when she’s in the open counties. Her Asian appearance marks her as being from “one of the facilities,” and most of the people she meets there are described as Caucasian.31 Thus, against eugenic notions of purity, here mixed-race vitality is associated with reproductive futurity and potential salvation. In playing with this trope of reproductive futurity, moreover, the novel interrogates “how blood is still thought of as the carrier of heritable racial characteristics” in order to contest the eugenic legacies that undergird our conceptions of race.32

Eugenics and Asian Immigration in the United States

Immigration, one of the major thematics within Asian American studies, was also a means by which eugenics was practiced. If eugenics was a state-sponsored project of controlling national populations, then controlling who was coming in and out of national borders was key to its workings. Indeed, eugenics depends upon a modern view of “population” as a natural phenomenon endogenous to the workings of the state. This modern view of population is a fundamental aspect of the rise in the mid-18th century of what Michel Foucault calls biopower. Arguing that the sovereign’s power “to take life or to let live” is replaced by the “reverse right of the social body to ensure, maintain, or develop its life,” Foucault identifies a new politics of controlling the species body as a population.33 Although the “anatomo-politics of the human body” works to increase the utility and docility of individuals through discipline, biopower works on populations, constituting a “new body, a multiple body, a body with so many heads that, while they might not be infinite in number, cannot necessarily be counted.”34 Where discipline individuates, biopolitics massifies, creating a Hydra-like beast in need of governmental regulation and control.

In the United States, one way this biopolitical eugenic project was expressed was through a series of exclusionary immigration laws, most of which were specifically targeted at immigrants from Asian countries (the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first immigration law to exclude on the basis of race or national origin). Asian exclusion was thus a eugenic innovation. As Mathew Connolly argues in Fatal Misconceptions, “the United States, in restricting Asians, had developed the legal rationales and administrative mechanisms for a systematic shift in how states controlled their borders, and thus controlled their populations.”35 Connolly details that Asian exclusion was often leveraged in terms of defending the rights of the unborn of “native” (read: white) Americans. In other words, the eugenics of immigration was about protecting those citizens a nation already has by excluding those that a nation does not want.

Fueled by such arguments, anti-Asian sentiment was pronounced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to a series of exclusionary immigration laws. The history of Asian exclusion from the United States is well known. It begins with the 1875 Page Law, which barred “undesirable immigrants” (defined as forced laborers, convicts, and prostitutes) from entering the country. This essentially disallowed the entry of nearly all Chinese women into the country and was followed by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred all immigrants from China for a period of ten years. The 1882 act was extended by the 1888 Scott Act and the 1892 Geary Act, and Chinese exclusion was made permanent in 1904. In terms of Japanese immigration to the United States, the 1907 Gentleman’s Agreement effectively halted Japanese immigration, though family reunification was possible under its terms, thus leading to the phenomenon of “picture brides.” Exclusion was consolidated and extended through the Asiatic Barred Zone Act of 1917, which prohibited all immigration from the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Finally, the Immigration Act of 1924, otherwise known as the Johnson–Reed Act, set national quotas based on the 1890 census and also prevented the immigration of “aliens ineligible for citizenship,” thus effectively ending all immigration from Asia, with the exception of the Philippines, which was a US colony.36 The Tydings–McDuffie Act of 1934, which reduced Filipino immigration and rendered Filipinos aliens instead of nationals, addressed this.

These exclusionary immigration acts displayed a particularly reproductive logic, as one justification for Asian exclusion was fears of “race suicide.” “Race suicide,” a notion coined in 1901 by sociologist Edward Alsworth Ross and popularized in a 1905 speech by Theodore Roosevelt, pitted the declining birthrates of so-called native (i.e., Anglo-Saxon) Americans of “good stock” against the fecundity of immigrants. Specifically, Ross evokes the idea of the “yellow peril,” asserting that while Americans (and by this he means white Americans) will only have as many children as will allow them to maintain their standard of living, the Chinese will have more children because they have a lower standard of living. Through this mechanism, Ross argues, “the American farm hand, mechanic and operative might wither away before the heavy influx of a prolific race from the Orient” unless “native” Americans take their reproductive duty in hand.37 Thus, against feminist arguments that women’s education and economic advancement would improve the race as a whole, mainstream eugenicists countered that educated women reproduced less and therefore contributed to racial decline. In this way, a conservative logic of “race suicide” combined antifeminist and anti-immigrant rhetoric alike. Indeed, Susan Lanser’s groundbreaking analysis of race in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” excavates the workings of this logic in Gilman’s classic feminist tale.38 Focusing specifically on the yellow color of the paper and drawing upon examples of Gilman’s anti-immigrant and anti-Chinese sentiments in her other writings, Lanser links descriptions of the wallpaper to nativist tropes. She thereby confronts interpretations of the wallpaper as the narrator’s unconscious to argue that the wallpaper also encodes a political unconscious of anti-Asian sentiment.

This anti-Asian sentiment was likewise characterized as a public health problem. As Nayan Shah argues in his study of public health, immigration, and the racialization of the Chinese in San Francisco, Contagious Divides, public health was a form of “imperial domesticity” that sought “to manage and reform the ‘foreign’ within the nation” as well as “to civilize the ‘lower races’ within the United States and abroad in China and India and, later, in the U.S. imperial territories of the Philippines and Puerto Rico.”39 The notion of public health therefore performs a kind of spatial metonymy whereby all “unhealthy” spaces require the same treatment regardless of their global location. As such, Asian immigrants were linked to contagious diseases through what Alan Kraut has dubbed “medicalized nativism,” redefining in medical terms what nativists viewed as immigrants’ racial or cultural unfitness for national membership.40

This particular reasoning was reinforced by the immigration laws themselves. As Martin Joseph Ponce notes in his entry on “Sexuality” in Keywords for Asian American Studies, “the anti-Chinese movement that led to the Exclusion Act of 1882 not only vilified Chinese women as transmitters of venereal diseases and as prostitutes who corrupted white men and boys, but also cast suspicion on Chinese men’s sexual practices and gender embodiment due to their hair and clothing styles and their ‘feminized’ work as laundrymen and domestic help.”41 At the same time, Filipino and South Asian men were viewed as dangerously masculine sexual predators. As such, the gender disparities created by immigration laws became both explanation and cause of supposed Asian sexual deviancy.

In exploring this immigration history, Maxine Hong Kingston’s experimental memoir, China Men, both critiques the exploitation and emasculation of Asian American men and refuses to valorize patriarchal masculinity in response. Much critical work on China Men has focused on the character of Ah Goong, with special attention paid to the chapter that describes his work building the railroad, “The Grandfather of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.” David Eng’s influential reading of the chapter in his Racial Castration, for instance, argues that even as China Men shows how Ah Goong is “emasculated in America by political, economic and cultural laws feminizing the Chinese man,” it also has him pointedly rejecting patriarchal privilege even in China, reprimanding his penis for producing only sons and no daughters (and even going so far as to trade one of his sons for a neighbor’s daughter) and generally questioning his penis’s place in the world.42 Looking at how China Men are associated at the end of the collection with a white gay male couple, Eng argues that ultimately “Kingston acknowledges multiple and intersecting social injuries and attempts to rework them simultaneously.”43 Extending Eng’s reading and focusing on the temporalities of labor, Iyko Day argues in her 2016 Alien Capital that Ah Goong rejects patriarchal codes of masculinity and reproduction, representing instead a “queer vitalism that upsets the reproduction of a capitalist temporality.”44 As such, Ah Goong inhabits a queer temporality that challenges “the consolidating logic of settler colonial capitalism.”45 In both of these readings, then, Kingston’s retelling of male Chinese immigration to the United States disrupts normative narratives of immigration, sexuality, reproduction, and capital and allows for new and potentially resistive scripts.

The end of Asian exclusion began with the McCarran–Walter Act of 1952, which introduced immigration preferences based on skill sets and family reunification. The landmark year, however, is 1965, when the Immigration and Nationality Act (alternatively known as the Hart–Celler Act) permanently changed the landscape of Asian America. The Hart–Celler Act not only increased Asian immigration overall, it inaugurated immigration by groups previously underrepresented within Asian America, such as Koreans and South Asians. Moreover, in contrast to earlier migrations, because the provisions of Hart–Celler favored professionals, scientists, and artists of “exceptional ability,” this diaspora initially consisted primarily of technical and professional workers, thus giving rise to a new set of stereotypes about Asian Americans as model minority subjects. The 1970s and 1980s ushered in the arrival of refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, due to the 1975 Indochina Migration and Refugee Act and the 1980 Refugee Act. These voluntary movements and forced migrations—responsible for an upsurge in permanent residents from Asian nation-states—profoundly changed the face of the United States.

Eugenics, Feminism, and Assimilation

The relationship among eugenic, feminist, and birth control movements was unique in the different national contexts where eugenics was embraced. In Britain, for instance, eugenics spoke to instabilities in the British Empire, with some observers citing British “unfitness” as the reason for imperial decline in the face of anticolonial resistance and competition from other empires. Nonetheless, the British eugenics movement was a largely domestic concern, speaking to anxieties over urban poverty, falling birth rates, high infant mortality rates, and social unrest in the guise of labor movements, socialism, and movements for women’s suffrage. In this, eugenics overlapped with the so-called woman question, with many feminists actively helping to shape the terms of eugenic debates. Likewise, in many of the colonial sites in which eugenics was embraced it was articulated in relationship to anticolonial national, feminist, and women’s issues. So in India, for example, the eugenics and birth control movements were closely aligned.46

In the United States, however, eugenics and feminism were intertwined but discrete movements. Because of this, “eugenic feminism,” as legal scholar Mary Ziegler defines it, was distinct from the mainstream eugenics movement in that its proponents thought that racial advance must be achieved through women’s liberation, equality, and access to birth control.47 And, indeed, much like eugenics, the issue of birth control seduced reformers on all parts of the political spectrum—from suffragettes, to moral reformers, to free love advocates.48 Nonetheless, US feminists were largely unsuccessful in their attempt to redefine eugenics to feminist ends, as mainstream eugenicists were more concerned that feminism would make white US women abdicate their so-called reproductive duties.

When the focus shifted from the positive eugenics of encouraging reproduction from the fit to the negative eugenics of preventing reproduction from the unfit, however, birth control became more central to the mainstream eugenics movement. As is well known, birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger courted eugenicists, both because of their political and economic clout and because of her own eugenic views. In the process, the overtly feminist content of the birth control movement was sacrificed to the cause of gaining respectability and institutionalization—as solidified in the 1942 name change from the Birth Control Federation of America to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. By forwarding normative ideas of parenthood (the goal is to plan parenthood rather than prevent pregnancies), Planned Parenthood sidestepped any critique of the family as the site of gender inequalities.49

Accordingly, feminist scholars of color have exposed how a narrow liberal feminist conception of reproductive rights as concerned only with access to birth control and abortion fails to address sterilization abuses of poor women, particularly poor women of color. They have also shown how reproductive rights in this guise is linked to population control overseas (again, Planned Parenthood and the International Planned Parenthood Federation are paradigmatic here), as well as to larger structures of neoliberal globalization in the form of development. Such scholarship has powerfully demonstrated that real reproductive justice would address the racism of an environmental movement that scapegoats indigenous peoples, immigrants, and the poor; the imperialism of regimes of national security; and the coercions of population control.50

Asha Nadkarni’s usage of the term “eugenic feminism” takes into account this complicated relationship among nationalist feminism, issues of right reproduction, and citizenship.51 In this formulation, eugenic feminism is an analytic that points to a specific kind of maternalist feminist investment in biological reproduction, and biological reproduction as the means of progress and improvement, as the platform for women’s rights within the state. As such, it is through feminist investments in nationalism (which work according to a racialized reproductive mechanism) that feminism becomes dangerously tied to eugenicist thinking. Thus eugenic feminism names a strand of exclusionary nationalism as the mechanism for feminist progress. Nonetheless, even as it is a logic expressed at the national level, as an analytic eugenic feminism is explicitly transnational. This is because it is necessary to think transnationally in order to clearly see how positive and negative eugenics are inextricably linked. For instance, a transnational analytic reveals how movements for birth control and reproductive rights (which have been central to liberal feminism) can be aligned with far less emancipatory discourses in the Global South. As historian Sarah Hodges reminds us, “unlike the American or European historiography of birth control, the uneasy legacy of population control is not part of any emancipatory narrative” in the postcolonial world.52

Asian American feminism and Asian American literature have a complicated and contentious relationship to eugenic feminism, particularly given that eugenic feminism is an analytic that describes a hegemonic feminism that primarily is raced white. Indeed, within a eugenic feminist logic, Asian women are among the many abject others standing in the way of feminist advance, particularly when framed through stereotypes about patriarchal Asian cultures and oppressed Asian women. These stereotypes about Asian women have a long history, appearing in late-19th-century discourses around the “yellow peril” and recirculating in texts such as radical feminist Mary Daly’s 1978 Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism.53 Gyn/Ecology devotes chapters to Chinese foot-binding and sati (the sati chapter relies heavily on Katherine Mayo’s 1927 text, Mother India, despite the fact that it was out of date in Daly’s time and discredited as inaccurate in its own).54 A similar logic pertains in transnational adoption during and after the Cold War whereby, as Judy Tzu-Chun Wu elucidates, more girls than boys are adopted because “the girls are viewed in the U.S. as unwanted in Asia, due to the presumed patriarchal and antifemale values of these Asian countries.”55 You also see such assumptions, as Wu points out, in depictions of intergenerational conflicts in which Asia is the site of patriarchal gender norms and the United States the site of feminist freedom.

Arguably a certain subset of Asian American novels that accede to a politics of assimilation express a kind of eugenic feminism. Perhaps paradigmatic of this is Bharathi Mukherjee’s 1989 novel Jasmine, in which feminist empowerment is only possible through shedding ethnic particularity. Jasmine tells the tale of a Punjabi village girl named Jyoti who immigrates to the United States after her husband Prakash is killed by a Sikh separatist named Sukhwinder. Throughout the novel Jyoti moves through a dizzying series of relationships and name changes—from Jyoti to Jasmine to Jase to Jane. Through these various changes of identity and place, Jasmine tells what seems to be a straightforward immigrant tale from a “feminist” perspective. As an often-cited quotation from The Baltimore Sun on the Fawcett Crest paperback edition describes it, Jasmine is “the story of the transformation of an Indian village girl, whose grandmother wants to marry her off at 11, into an American woman who finally thinks for herself.”56 Indeed, early critical assessments of Jasmine embraced it on these grounds, positing (as Victoria Carchidi does in a 1995 article in MELUS) that Jasmine narrates the transformation of its heroine from “a victim or a passive agent to someone willing to make hard choices in pursuit of an identity not offered by the easy, pre-existing patterns from which she can choose.”57 In other words, as Carchidi puts it, Jasmine becomes “more truly American.”58

In response, many critics have argued that Jasmine depends upon a developmental (and, frankly, racist) opposition between the United States and India as sites of feminist freedom and unfreedom, respectively.59 As such critics suggest, even though Mukherjee claims to be “trying to extend” the “American mainstream,” her project is not as radical as it would seem.60 Indeed, Susan Koshy’s reading of Jasmine in her 2004 book, Sexual Naturalization, argues that Jasmine is an exotic who uses her difference from white American women to her advantage. In exploring this, Koshy develops the idea of a “sexual model minority” to refer to the commonplace notion, emerging in the 1970s, that while white American women reject traditional gender roles in the name of feminist equality, Asian woman naturally and happily embrace the retrograde model of femininity their white “sisters” discard.61 In short, the Asian woman as sexual model minority represents the “perfect match between family-centrism and sex appeal.”62

Thus, in order for Jasmine to become an American feminist subject, she must violently rid herself of all but the most superficial kinds of differences. Her exotic good looks and cooking are acceptable, but anything that would present a real challenge to the idea of white America must be excised. In this consumer version of culture, difference is simply the foreign spice that seasons the United States without changing its actual constitution. Even though Jasmine is seemingly a novel about the diversity of the “new America,” then, it can only deal with meaningful differences by assimilating them and by relying on a biological genetic language to assert the fitness and unfitness of different women for US feminist citizenship. Mukherjee’s novel thus narrates a story of assimilation, illustrating that even a “multicultural” feminist progress narrative can contain a eugenic impulse.

Conclusion: Queer Diaspora

Despite the assimilationist drive of a text like Jasmine, many Asian American novels take up issues of reproduction to challenge rather than instantiate a eugenic logic of purity. In closing, this article briefly turns to Asian American literature and scholarship on queer diaspora for how it might unsettle and complicate heteropatriarchal eugenic reproduction in the name of the nation, looking specifically at Indo-Trinidadian Canadian author Shani Mootoo’s 1996 novel, Cereus Blooms at Night.63 Set on the fictional Caribbean island of Lantanacamera (which resembles Trinidad), Cereus tells the story of Mala Ramachandin, who is introduced at the beginning of the novel as a mute and presumably mad woman in a nursing home. It describes how Mala’s father, Chandin, was adopted into a missionary family because of his academic promise; his desire for the daughter of that family, Lavinia; the affair between Lavinia and Chandin’s wife, Sarah; and their eventual escape to the “Shivering Northern Wetlands” (which serves as a stand in for England). In the wake of their departure, Mala and her sister Asha are left with an abusive Chandin, who turns to raping them. Asha leaves the island, while Mala eventually kills Chandin. Mala’s story is interwoven with that of Ambrose, her lover in her youth, his daughter-turned-son Otoh, and Mala’s nurse, Tyler. Through these entangled stories Mootoo explores colonial histories of South Asian indentured labor, with a particular eye to regimes of normative and nonnormative sexuality.

As Jana Braziel and Anita Mannur note in the introduction to their 2003 reader, Theorizing Diaspora, typical theorizations of diaspora understand it as “question[ing] the rigidities of identity itself—religious, ethnic, gendered, national.”64 In this formulation diaspora is opposed to nation, with nationalism signifying the homogeneity of identity and diaspora signifying its difference; as Stuart Hall puts it in his foundational 1990 essay, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora,” “the diaspora experience . . . is defined, not by essence or purity, but by the recognition of a necessary heterogeneity and diversity; by the conception of an ‘identity’ which lives on and through, not despite, difference; by hybridity.”65 This is not to say, however, that diaspora is simply an uncomplicated and unidirectional movement away from repressive, patriarchal, and heteronormative cultures to ones defined by freedom of various sorts. Indeed, gender and sexuality become the grounds on which national, communal, and ethnic identities are worked out in the country of origin and the country of diaspora alike. Thus, as Gayatri Gopinath argues in her influential study, Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures, a text such as Mootoo’s “challenges the implicit imperialist assumptions underlying conventional coming out narratives that locate the Third World as a site of sexual oppression that must be left behind in order to realize a liberated gay subjectivity.”66

Accordingly, Gopinath’s reading of Cereus focuses on how homoerotic interracial desire “emerges from within the patriarchal confines of the home . . . and is inextricable from the violences of colonialism and misogyny.”67 As such, Gopinath demonstrates, rejecting heterosexuality becomes a means of escaping the very colonial and patriarchal regimes that discipline subjects through gender and sexual normativity. Mala literally remakes the space of the home (after she kills Chandin, she moves outside and allows the house to be overrun by animals and insects), and Otoh remakes his gender (he is born a girl but makes himself into a boy so perfectly that even the doctor and nurse who delivered him think they must have been mistaken). In both cases, Gopinath argues, “the novel suggests that queer bodies and queer desires become the means by which to escape the totalizing logic of the colonial order.”68

Likewise, Grace Hong’s reading of Cereus focuses on how the novel uses the language of natural history both to index colonial constructions of race, gender, and sexuality and also to chart the possibilities of “new modes of affiliation and connection.”69 Hong argues that “while the nonnormative sexuality of incest is represented as stunted, the novel situates other nonnormative sexualities—queer and cross-race connects as represented by Tyler’s relationship to Otoh and Mala—as sites of potential.”70 This article turns to Hong’s reading by way of closing because the pseudoscience of eugenics likewise depends upon the sexed and racialized hierarches of natural science. Although Hong does not explicitly reference eugenic discourse, she does carefully trace how the racial and sexual hierarchies of natural science undergirded colonial divisions of labor and definitions of proper and improper sexuality both under slavery and under the system of indentureship that replaced it.

By ending with Mootoo’s debut novel, this essay aims to show its affinity with, rather than difference from, the Eaton texts with which it began. Taken together these Asian American texts, though from different time periods and different moments in Asian American immigration to North America, reveal some enduring concerns surrounding eugenics, reproduction, and Asian American literature. For one, these texts chart the transnational coordinates of Asian racialization in North America via critiques of British and US imperialism and colonialism and indictments of anti-Asian racism. They do so, moreover, through an attention to the reproductive logics that subtend such regimes; for instance, both “A Half Caste” and Cereus link miscegenation and incest to indict the perversities of British colonialism in the Caribbean and US imperial adventures in the Pacific. The three texts likewise offer a way forward by asking us to examine what might fall outside normative understandings of race, gender, and sexuality. While neither “Leaves” or “A Half Caste” contains the explicitly queer critique of Cereus, arguably both of the earlier texts do mine the way that mixed-race subjects are queer for how they fall outside of normative constructions of race and gender. Thus, if we define queer, as Hong does, “as that which is in excess of categorization,” we can see all three texts as disrupting normative genealogies of various kinds and creating new modes of kinship and affiliation.71

Further Reading

  • Connelly, Matthew. Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010.
  • Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “Eugenics.” In Keywords for Disability Studies, edited by Rachel Adams, Benjamin Reiss, and David Serlin, 74–79. New York: New York University Press, 2015.
  • Ho, Jennifer Ann. Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture. Newark, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2015.
  • Koshy, Susan. Sexual Naturalization: Asian Americans and Miscegenation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004.
  • Lee, Chang-Rae. On Such a Full Sea. New York: Riverhead Books, 2014.
  • Lee, Erika. The Exquisite Corpse of Asian America: Biopolitics, Biosociality, and Posthuman Ecologies. New York: New York University Press, 2014.
  • Levine, Phillippa, and Alison Bashford, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Mukherjee, Bharati. Jasmine. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1989.
  • Nadkarni, Asha. Eugenic Feminism: Reproductive Nationalism in the United States and India. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.
  • Ordover, Nancy. American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
  • Schlund-Vials, Cathy J., and Cynthia Wu. “Rethinking Embodiment and Hybridity: Mixed-Race, Adoptee, and Disabled Subjectivities.” In The Cambridge Companion to Asian American Literature, edited by Crystal Parikh and Daniel Kim, 197–211. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
  • Seitler, Dana. Atavistic Tendencies: The Culture of Science in American Modernity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.
  • Stern, Alexandra Minna. Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.


  • 1. Frank Chin, Jeffery Paul Chan, Lawson Fusao Inada, and Shawn Wong, eds., Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1974.) For a discussion of Edith Eaton as a “foremother,” see also the introduction to Mary Chapman’s Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism, and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (Montreal: McGill–Queen’s University Press, 2016), xii–lxxvi.

  • 2. See Tomo Hattori, “Model Minority Discourse and Asian American Jouis-Sense,” differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 11, no. 2 (1999): 228–247; Viet Thanh Nguyen, Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); and Jinhua Emma Tong, “The Eaton Sisters and the Figure of the Eurasian,” in The Cambridge History of Asian American Literature, ed. Rajini Srikanth and Min Hyoung Song (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015). For the sake of distinguishing between Edith and Winnifred Eaton I will refer to them by their pen names—Far and Watanna.

  • 3. Sui Sin Far (Edith Maud Eaton), “Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian,” in Mrs. Spring Fragrance, ed. Hsuan L. Hsu (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2011), 221–233; and Onoto Watanna (Winnifred Eaton), “A Half Caste,” in The Heath Anthology of American Literature: Volume C, ed. Paul Lauter (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005), 979–986.

  • 4. Pierre Loti, Madame Chrysanthème, (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1893); and John Luther Long, Madame Butterfly (New York: Century Company, 1898).

  • 5. Far, “Leaves,” 222.

  • 6. Far, “Leaves,” 227.

  • 7. Melissa Eriko Poulsen, “Writing Madame Butterfly’s Child,” Amerasia Journal 43, no. 2 (2017): 158–175.

  • 8. Far, “Leaves,” 229.

  • 9. Watanna, “A Half Caste,” 981.

  • 10. Watanna, “A Half Caste,” 983–984.

  • 11. Watanna, “A Half Caste,” 984.

  • 12. Watanna, “A Half Caste,” 986.

  • 13. See also Jolie Sheffer, The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880–1930 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013).

  • 14. Far, “Leaves,” 222, 228–229; and Watanna, “A Half Caste,” 981.

  • 15. Two important works in the so-called transnational turn are Lisa Lowe, Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996); and Kandice Chuh, Imagine Otherwise: On Asian Americanist Critique (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003). See also Sau-ling Wong’s critique in “Denationalization Reconsidered,” Amerasia Journal 21, no. 1: 1–27.

  • 16. For accounts of eugenics that similarly trace its endurance past World War II, see Daniel Kelves, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998); Wendy Kline, Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); Matthew Connelly, Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010); Linda Gordon, The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007); Nancy Ordover, American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003); and Johanna Schoen, Choice and Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).

  • 17. Alexandra Minna Stern, Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 4.

  • 18. Alison Bashford, “Epilogue: Where Did Eugenics Go?,” in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics, ed. Philippa Levine and Alison Bashford (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 539–558.

  • 19. On transnational surrogacy see Asha Nadkarni, “Epilogue,” in Eugenic Feminism: Reproductive Nationalism in the United States and India (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014); Sharmila Rudrappa, Discounted Life: The Price of Global Surrogacy in India (New York: New York University Press, 2015); Kalindi Vora, Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014); and Elizabeth Seigel Watkins, “Parsing the Postmenopausal Pregnancy,” New Formations 60 (Spring 2007): 34.

  • 20. Chang-Rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea (New York: Riverhead Books, 2014).

  • 21. Lee, On Such a Full Sea, 65.

  • 22. Lee, On Such a Full Sea, 17.

  • 23. See David S. Roh, Betsy Huang, and Greta A. Niu, Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media (Newark, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2015).

  • 24. Lee, On Such a Full Sea, 53–54.

  • 25. Lee, On Such a Full Sea, 7.

  • 26. Lee, On Such a Full Sea, 54; and see Christopher Fan’s reading of this in relation to Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011) in his “Animacy at the End of History in Changrae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea,” American Quarterly 69 (September 2017): 675–696.

  • 27. Susette Min, “Biopower, Space, and Race in Asian American Studies,” American Literature 88, no. 4 (December 2016): 839–854. See also Rachel Lee’s reading of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Never Let Me Go, in her The Exquisite Corpse of Asian America: Biopolitics, Biosociality, and Posthuman Ecologies (New York: New York University Press, 2014). While the residents of B-Mor are not the same as the clones in Ishiguro’s novel, a similar logic of expendability and surplus obtains.

  • 28. See Vora, Surplus Life.

  • 29. Lee, On Such a Full Sea, 351.

  • 30. Lee, On Such a Full Sea, 163.

  • 31. Lee, On Such a Full Sea, 144.

  • 32. Min, “Biopower, Space, and Race,” 851.

  • 33. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction (New York: Vintage, 1990), 136.

  • 34. Foucault, The History of Sexuality, 139; and Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended (New York: Picador, 2003), 245.

  • 35. Matthew Connolly, Fatal Misconceptions: The Struggle to Control World Population (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2008), 41.

  • 36. Immigration Act of 1924, 68th Cong. Sess. I, Chapter 190 (1924), 153–169, 162.

  • 37. Edward A. Ross, “The Causes of Race Superiority,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 18 (July 1901): 88.

  • 38. Susan S. Lanser, “Feminist Criticism, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and the Politics of Color in America,” Feminist Studies 15, no. 3 (Fall 1989): 424.

  • 39. Nayan Shah, Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 106. See also E. Richard Brown, Rockefeller Medicine Men: Medicine and Capitalism in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979); and John Ettling, The Germ of Laziness: Rockefeller Philanthropy and Public Health in the New South (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981).

  • 40. Alan Kraut, Silent Travelers: Germs, Genes and the “Immigrant Menace” (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).

  • 41. Martin Joseph Ponce, “Sexuality,” in Keywords for Asian American Studies, ed. Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, K. Scott Wong, and Linda Trinh Vo (New York: New York University Press, 2015), 225. See also David Eng, Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001); and Erika Lee, At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882–1943 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).

  • 42. Eng, Racial Castration, 99; and Maxine Hong Kingston, China Men (New York: Random House, 1979), 144.

  • 43. Eng, Racial Castration, 102.

  • 44. Iyko Day, Alien Capital: Asian Racialization and the Logic of Settler Colonial Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), 54.

  • 45. Day, Alien Capital, 54.

  • 46. Sanjam Ahluwalia, Reproductive Restraints: Birth Control in India, 1877–1947 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007).

  • 47. Mary Zeigler, “Eugenic Feminism: Mental Hygiene, the Women’s Movement, and the Campaign for Eugenic Legal Reform, 1900–1935,” Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 31 (2008): 211–235.

  • 48. See Linda Gordon, The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002).

  • 49. See Angela Y. Davis, Woman, Race and Class (New York: Random House, 1983), chap. 12; Gordon, The Moral Property, chap. 9; Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty (New York: Random House, 1990), chap. 2; Betsy Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control, rev. ed. (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1995), chap. 6; Schoen, Choice and Coercion, chap. 4; Connelly, Fatal Misconceptions, chap. 2; and Ahluwalia, Reproductive Restraints, chap. 2. Some scholars view Sanger’s turn to eugenics as an issue of efficiency rather than ideology. See Carole McCann, Birth Control Politics in the United States, 1916–1945 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994); and Ellen Chesler, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). For a discussion of the Sanger controversy, see Ordover, American Eugenics, 137–158.

  • 50. See, for example, Andrea Smith, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide (Boston: South End Press, 2005); Roberts, Killing the Black Body; Jael Silliman, Elena Gutierrez, Loretta Ross, and Marlene Gerber Fried, eds., Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice (Boston: South End Press, 2004); and Marlene Gerber Fried, From Abortion to Reproductive Freedom: Transforming a Movement (Boston: South End Press, 1999).

  • 51. Asha Nadkarni, Eugenic Feminism: Reproductive Nationalism in the United States and India (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014).

  • 52. Sarah Hodges, “Towards a History of Reproduction in Modern India,” in Reproductive Health in India: History, Politics, Controversies, ed. Sarah Hodges (New Delhi: Orient Longman), 16.

  • 53. Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1990).

  • 54. Katherine Mayo, Mother India (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1927).

  • 55. Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, “Gender,” in Keywords for Asian American Studies, ed. Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, K. Scott Wong, and Linda Trinh Vo (New York: New York University Press, 2015), 108–109.

  • 56. Review of Jasmine from The Baltimore Sun, quoted on the cover of the paperback edition. Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine (New York: Fawcett Crest, 1989).

  • 57. Victoria Carchidi, “‘Orbiting’: Bharati Mukherjee’s Kaleidoscope Vision,” MELUS 20, no. 4 (Winter 1995): 93.

  • 58. Carchidi, “Orbiting,” 93.

  • 59. Inderpal Grewal, “The Postcolonial, Ethnic Studies and the Diaspora: The Contexts of Ethnic Immigrant/Migrant Cultural Studies in the US,” Socialist Review 24, no. 4 (Autumn 1994): 45–74; Gurleen Grewal, “Born Again American: The Immigrant Consciousness in Jasmine,” in Bharati Mukherjee: Critical Perspectives, ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson (New York: Garland, 1993), 181–196; and Fred Pfeil, “No Basta Teorizar: In-Difference to Solidarity in Contemporary Fiction, Theory and Practice,” in Scattered Hegemonies: Postmodernity and Transnational Feminist Practices, ed. Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 197–230. For more sympathetic readings of Jasmine see Anthony C. Alessandrini, “Reading Bharati Mukherjee, Reading Globalization,” in World Bank Literature, ed. Amitava Kumar (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 265–279; Samir Dayal, “Creating, Preserving, Destroying: Violence in Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine,” in Bharati Mukherjee: Critical Perspectives, ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson (New York: Garland, 1993), 65–88; and Malini Johar Schueller, “Globalization and Orientalism: Iyer’s Video Night in Kathmandu, Alexander’s Fault Lines, and Mukherjee’s Jasmine,” in Locating Race: Global Sites of Post-Colonial Citizenship, ed. Malini Johar Schueller (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009), 73–100.

  • 60. Bharati Mukherjee, “A Four-Hundred-Year-Old Woman,” in The Writer on Her Work Volume II: New Essays in New Territory, ed. Janet Sternberg (New York: Norton, 1991), 34.

  • 61. Susan Koshy, Sexual Naturalization: Asian Americans and Miscegenation (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 135.

  • 62. Koshy, Sexual Naturalization, 137.

  • 63. Shani Mootoo, Cereus Blooms at Night (New York: Grove Press, 1996).

  • 64. Jana Evans Braziel and Anita Mannur, Theorizing Diaspora: A Reader (New York: Wiley–Blackwell, 2003), 3.

  • 65. Stuart Hall, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora,” in Identity, Community, Culture, Difference, ed. Jonathan Rutherford (New York: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990), 244.

  • 66. Gayatri Gopinath, Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 176.

  • 67. Gopinath, Impossible Desires, 183.

  • 68. Gopinath, Impossible Desires, 185.

  • 69. Grace Kyungwon Hong, “‘A Shared Queerness’: Colonialism, Transnationalism, and Sexuality in Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night,” Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 7, no. 1 (2006): 75.

  • 70. Hong, “A Shared Queerness,” 91.

  • 71. Hong, “A Shared Queerness,” 97.