Barred Zones

My other book project, Barred Zones: The Strange Geography of Asian Pacific America, considers the role of geography and race in framing and forming differential relationships of peoples, places, and nations. It re-considers Asian American history and the history of race broadly within global history, ethnic studies, and critical race theory. Asian American historians have demonstrated the use of “Asian” as a trope historically for exclusion from the American body politic. Barred Zones, which takes its title from the Asiatic Barred Zone established by the United States in 1917, extends this racial dynamic to geography to ask an apparently paradoxical question: how do you locate a people or group you mean to exclude? Racial difference crossed with geography’s standard concern to locate association gave rise historically to “barred zones,” strange and fraught places that produced and enforced racial and ethnic assumption but also offered the latent possibility for unanticipated surprise and discovery within those assumptions. Recovering their peculiar and particular situation recognizes that both race and geography are products of history, a relevant concern as contemporary scholarship argues the one to be socially constructed while contemporary discourse tacitly accepts the other’s natural correspondence, not only with physical features in the world, but also political boundaries, territory, and identity. Developed in and for the territorial expansion of imperial states, geography and the geophysical sciences worked with racial science and the law to establish the administrative territoriality of modern nation-states. Their specific alchemy not only mapped, but produced the international framework for modern transnationalism.