Ngai Reading

In The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law, Ngai discusses how through the Immigration Act of 1924 America was able to codify legal discrimination yet again through the use of race based language and the creation of the national origins quota system.  In terms of race based language the United States essentially tried to keep out anyone who wasn’t “white” out of America by reconstructing racial categories.  The language used was preferential to western and northern Europeans and was meant to keep out southern and eastern Europeans.  By differentiating European immigrants by nationality and then ranking them based on desirability the US reinforced a white American race that was based on a common whiteness.  This common whiteness led to the surge in nativism and white supremacy in America during the 1920’s especially in terms of the rise of eugenics, and other theories that immigration was harming America.  I thought it was interesting to see how these theories came about and what the “science” behind the theories worked.  I also found it very interesting and questionable how the system of national origins was developed because in the article Ngai discusses how Joseph Hill himself said that there were many errors in the research and calculations.  It’s questionable because even with all the holes, miscalculations, and uncertainty within the system it was still approved and was used to keep out immigrants.

4 thoughts on “Ngai Reading

  1. I agree it was interesting to read about the developments of race science at the time and how much it was invested in at the time. The article discussed how the scientists conducting studies on racial differences and divides were not simply looking to reinforce preconceived prejudices using pseudoscientific methodology. They instead conducted themselves with scientific integrity and operated within the framework of standards of the time. Ngai then describes how this fact served to legitimize these studies and later the categorizations of the Census as reliable evidence of racial inferiority and superiority. However, the because the eugenicist scientists were operating within the framework of academic standards of the time, they were not unaffected by the understandings of the society in which they lived, and so their works were hindered and rendered ultimately unreliable.

  2. I agree with you. When I read this article, I got the sense, that the way in how Americans view immigrants that they were outsiders. Reading about and learn about the theories was also very interesting to learn about when it came to the immigrants.

  3. I agree with your analysis and summarization and how interesting this article was. In my opinion, it was as if the majority of this article felt like all of the ways that the government officials and legislators and immigration officers would validate what they did in the Immigration Act of 1924 and the actions that followed as a result. It was as if the legislators knew that they were finding loopholes in order to implement this legislation that was rooted in a racial ideology without explicitly stating this.

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