Canceled: Transpacific Relations and Chinese Labor in Brazil
Ana Paulina Lee
For centuries, the transatlantic has been a space of forced labor migrations, mercantilism, colonial and capitalist extraction, imagination, resistance, and resignification. The transpacific, too, has long been a space of imperial imaginaries and conquests, and subaltern protagonisms. Here I discuss the gradual end of slavery and the continuous modes of precarious (slave-like, low-wage, contract) Chinese migrant labor to show various ways that Chinese identity was curated in order to facilitate Brazil’s policies of racial whitening and the project of nation building. I focus on late nineteenth-century popular cultural production demonstrating emergent ideas of national identity in Brazil that entangled labor, class, race, sexuality, and gender. Focusing on what I call racial constitutions to describe the constellation of relations among aesthetics, culture, and race that enter into deliberations of political life, citizenship, and belonging, I show how nineteenth-century ideas about sexuality, gender, and mixed race relationships structured the logic of racialized national citizenry, shaping the reception of Chinese migrants in Brazil and throughout the hemispheric Americas.