Different shades of yellow: Anti-Chinese sentiments in San Francisco, Singapore and Vladivostok

Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group
Soeren Urbansky, Cambridge Mongolia & Inner Asia Studies Unit
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - 13:10 to 14:00

Previous scholarship on the “yellow peril” pays little attention on the varying combinations of fear and prejudice that defined different contexts in which it became manifest. Hitherto neglected dynamics between xenophobic discourses and actual dealings in the public sphere can be explored best in a comparative analysis of cities with a high concentration of Asian immigrants. Though the “yellow peril” was established as a concept and a occidental fear that was not bound to urban ethnic ghettos, Chinatowns soon were regarded as breeding places of swirling tales of opium smoking, gambling and interracial romance all of which had become synonymous with the presence of the Chinese and other Asian immigrants. By investigating selected occurrences, such as romantic love across the ethnic divide, murder cases, or the fear of economic domination, my project will, firstly, test the “yellow peril” phobia on the micro level, its influence on discourses of fear, and the impact of such discourses on official policies and other dealings on the ground as well. A second objective of this study will be to analyze the regional variations and fluctuations of this concept. Thirdly, it will seek to identify the points and trajectories of decline in the perception of Chinese as a “yellow peril.” Fourthly, it will explore how these narratives were received in the Chinese communities themselves. Fifthly and finally, it will explore how people, ideas, laws and institutions moved within the wide universe of the Chinese diaspora to create the “yellow peril” as a global historical phenomenon.

Sören Urbansky is DAAD Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Mongolia & Inner Asia Studies Unit, Darwin College Postdoctoral Research Affiliate and Assistant Professor of Russian and Asian Studies at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich (Germany). His research interests lie in cultural and social history of modern Russia and the Soviet Union, with additional interest in modern and contemporary Chinese history, the history of borders, and the history of racism. Sören is currently completing a book manuscript titled “Beyond the Steppe Hill. The Making of the Sino-Russian border” and embarking on a new project that examines anti-Chinese sentiments in a global perspective.

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