In the late nineteenth century, increasing agricultural trade and mass Asian migration facilitated the transpacific exchanges of Japanese insect, plant, and human immigrants. This dissertation, "From a `Contagious' to a `Poisonous Yellow Peril'?: Japanese and Japanese Americans in Public Health and Agriculture, 1890s - 1950," challenges the nation-bound paradigm within the history of American public health and agriculture by examining how the "contagious and poisonous yellow peril" image applied first to Chinese immigrants was also imposed on plants, insects, bodies, and pathogens from Japan in the late nineteenth century. As Japanese and Japanese Americans in California resisted this stigmatization, early views of Japanese and Japanese American plants, insects, fishermen, and farmers as a "contagious yellow peril" evolved into a "poisonous yellow peril," leading to their "quarantine" in the form of incarceration during World War II.
Beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, this study examines the emergence of "biological nativism" and its correlative, "a contagious yellow peril" which soon expanded to include Japanese immigrants. Linking fears of diseased bodies to that of injurious insects from Japan, these earliest biotic exchanges occurred within a larger transpacific dialogue between health officials and agriculturalists. Throughout the 1910s, government officials increasingly monitored environmental dangers from East Asia and Mexico, as well as "infected" produce sold by Japanese fishermen and farmers within their borders. Fears of perils from Mexico and Japan led to a heightened awareness of biological attacks on "native" plants and bodies and the implementation of federal plant quarantine legislation. During the 1920s and 1930s, fears of a "contagious yellow peril" transformed into a "poisonous" menace in the form of the Japanese beetle pest and a rising second-generation Japanese American population. By World War II, government officers enacted a host of regulatory mechanisms in order to eradicate or at least control the beetle pest and prevent the sale of "poisoned" Japanese produce. Quarantine in the form of internment and the medical treatment of Japanese American prisoners helped transform them into viable citizen-subjects worthy of conservation. Yet health officials' changing views of Japanese Americans was determined in relationship to their American Indian and Mexican counterparts. In weaving together stories that are often told separately--including American history, Asian history, public health history, environmental history, and Asian American studies--this study reveals how racial and state formation unfolded across larger transpacific exchanges during American empire-building. Examining the lives of Japanese and Japanese Americans through the lens of public health and agriculture reveals how some species can be included while others could not.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2009. Major: History. Advisors: Donna Gabaccia, Ann Waltner. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 273 pages.
Shinozuka, Jeannie Natsuko.
From a “Contagious” to a “Poisonous Yellow Peril”?: Japanese and Japanese Americans in Public Health and Agriculture, 1890s – 1950..
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