Assigned Readings:

  • Nayan Shah, Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco's Chinatown, Intro-Ch. 1 (p. 1-45)

  • Questions to guide your reading:
    Remember to include specific examples in your notes.

    Shah, Contagious Divides

    1. Shah explains to us that the meanings of racial difference are changeable. What are some of the factors that affected how Chinese residents of SF were racialized in the late-19th and early-20th centuries? Who were leading this process of race-making and what did it entail?
    2. What was the role of ideas of public health in the racialization of SF Chinese men and women? And how did this project of creating knowledge about the health of Chinese affect their opportunities for citizenship?
    3. As you read, note ways that the opinions of whites/regulatory agencies changed their opinions of Chinese and their health. Also note the ways he describes divergences in these groups (e.g. how does he show that not ALL Chinese men and women acted similarly and believed in the same ideas and/or approaches to integration, reform, and citizenship.)
    4. In Chapter 1, he emphasizes the role of the creation of "knowledge" of "Chinese women and men's seemingly unhygenic habits, the unsanitary conditions in which they lived, and the dangerous diseases they carried." How did these descriptions become common sense or believed to be scientific knowledge? How did this knowledge ensure the continued surveillence and regulation of Chinatown?
    5. What is the role of space in Chapter 1 (and also discussed in intro)? Note examples related to the 3 spatial elements he discusses in chapter 1: dens, density, labyrinth; but also think about borders and boundaries

    Helpful Context

    Remember that you'll be responsible for teaching the chapter you read to your classmates. For this reason, it's more important than usual that you come to class prepared and with a good understanding of this chapter.

    Also remember that if you run into a name or another concept from an earlier chapter you didn't read, you can try to look it up in the index to learn more about it.

    See tips and reminders on reading/taking notes in this course.