Chapters (Layout Features)

"Emancipation to Immigration" in Mandarin Brazil: Race, Representation, and Memory

Lee, Ana Paulina

This chapter examines the developments that led Chinese migrant laborers to Brazil, through analyzing documents written by late Qing dynasty diplomats and officials who traveled to Brazil to open up Chinese immigration routes. Qing officials used a word for immigration that has a synonymous meaning with colonization (yizhi). Brazil, to them, presented a viable option for both due to its vast territory and inclusive citizenship laws. I discuss late Qing officials’ concerns in opening immigration and trade routes between China and Brazil in relation to Brazilian abolitionists’ preoccupations with emancipation, national independence, and the new nation’s desire to whiten its racial makeup. This chapter explores the cultural work that illustrations about Qing dynasty officials served, including caricatures of mandarins that appeared in abolitionist print journals.

In Mandarin Brazil, Ana Paulina Lee explores the centrality of Chinese exclusion to the Brazilian nation-building project, tracing the role of cultural representation in producing racialized national categories. Lee considers depictions of Chineseness in Brazilian popular music, literature, and visual culture, as well as archival documents and Brazilian and Qing dynasty diplomatic correspondence about opening trade and immigration routes between Brazil and China. In so doing, she reveals how Asian racialization helped to shape Brazil's image as a racial democracy.

Mandarin Brazil begins during the second half of the nineteenth century, during the transitional period when enslaved labor became unfree labor—an era when black slavery shifted to "yellow labor" and racial anxieties surged. Lee asks how colonial paradigms of racial labor became a part of Brazil's nation-building project, which prioritized "whitening," a fundamentally white supremacist ideology that intertwined the colonial racial caste system with new immigration labor schemes. By considering why Chinese laborers were excluded from Brazilian nation-building efforts while Japanese migrants were welcomed, Lee interrogates how Chinese and Japanese imperial ambitions and Asian ethnic supremacy reinforced Brazil's whitening project. Mandarin Brazil contributes to a new conversation in Latin American and Asian American cultural studies, one that considers Asian diasporic histories and racial formation across the Americas.

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Also Published In

Mandarin Brazil: Race, Representation, and Memory
Stanford University Press

More About This Work

Academic Units
Latin American and Iberian Cultures
Published Here
November 15, 2018