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The Archivist of Affronts: Immigration, Representation, and Legal Personality in Early Twentieth Century America

Munshi, Sherally K.

This dissertation explores the experience of Indian immigrants to the United States in the early twentieth century through an examination of the self-published writings of Dinshah P. Ghadiali, a Parsi Zoroastrian who immigrated to the United States with the hope of establishing himself as an important inventor but instead earned notoriety as a charismatic if irrepressible quack.
With his family, Ghadiali settled in New Jersey in 1911, and became a naturalized citizen in 1917, the same year that Congress banned further immigration from all of Asia. He purchased a printing press early in his career to promote his discoveries but gradually repurposed it to archiving the many injuries and affronts he suffered in his encounters with immigration officials, police, journalists, judges, and juries. Ghadiali was arrested several times throughout his career for laws governing the practice of medicine, but he became the target of increasingly racialized persecution after he married a white woman in 1923. He was accused of "white slavery" and sentenced to prison for five years. In 1932, the government sought to strip him of his citizenship. Ghadiali believed he had been singled out for persecution by professional rivals--in fact, he was caught in a much broader campaign to denaturalize citizens of Indian origin after the Supreme Court, in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923), determined that Indians were "racially ineligible" for citizenship.
The volumes examined here consist mainly of Ghadiali's reconstructions of his many encounters with the law. Rather than a biography or cultural study of racialization, this dissertation explores the way in which immigrant subjects participate in the crafting of personhood or subjectivity through violent and mundane encounters with legal institutions, legal language, and legal form.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Hirsch, Marianne
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014
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