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The Hypothetical MandarinSympathy, modernity, and Chinese Pain$
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Eric Hayot

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195377965

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195377965.001.0001

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Chinese Bodies, Chinese Futures

Chinese Bodies, Chinese Futures

The “Coolie” in Late Nineteenth-Century America

(p.135) 4 Chinese Bodies, Chinese Futures
The Hypothetical Mandarin

Eric Hayot (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents an exploration of the role theories of Chinese bodies played in the American experience of coolie labor. One of the chapter's major texts is an anti‐coolie pamphlet, “Some Reasons for Chinese Exclusion,” which with the phrase “meat vs. rice” opposes American manhood to Asiatic coolieism. The pamphlet, published by the American Federation of Labor in 1901, imagines an American Gulliver held down by numerous Lilliputian Chinese, a figure for the difference between an American masculine strength and a Chinese “strength in numbers” that has long been a feature of American “Yellow Peril” racism. The chapter connects the pamphlet's arguments about the nature of Chinese bodies to late‐nineteenth‐century discourses about Chinese people in general, including Arthur Smith's notorious Chinese Characteristics (1894), which made much of Chinese “nervelessness.” Much of the chapter focuses, however, on Arthur Vinton's Looking Further Backward, a dystopian science fiction novel which imagines the takeover, in 2023, of the United States by an army of the Chinese. All of these are finally understood not as expressions of simple racism but as articulations of particular kinds of economic anxiety in which Chinese bodies became figures for the dehumanizing threats of industrialized modernity.

Keywords:   Vinton, coolie, Asian American, labor, bodies, utopianism, dystopianism, race, United States

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