Essay: Immigration Act of America

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This essay is on the Immigration Act of America. I will take another quick detour, this time to the materialist methodology put forward by Asian American cultural critic Lisa Lowe in her important book Immigrant Acts (1996).

I will take another quick detour, this time to the materialist methodology put forward by Asian American cultural critic Lisa Lowe in her important book Immigrant Acts (1996). If a “coming to voice” argument relies too heavily on an optimistic narrative of progress, and if a theoretical attempt to deal with multicultural containment of difference offers no apparent space for resistance, Lowe’s materialist methodology offers critics a way to address exclusions and violent hierarchies while at the same time recognizing that out of these hierarchies may emerge cultural products that work towards representing alternative social formations.

At the core of Lowe’s project is an engagement with history and the specific contradictions posed by exclusionary immigration policies. Lowe argues’ understanding Asian immigration to the United States is fundamental to understanding the radicalized foundations of both the emergence of the United States as a nation and the development of American capitalism” (ix). Lowe’s project does not, however, simply map out how Asian immigrants were acted upon; she instead puts forward a compelling case for agency and resistance. In explaining the title of her book, Lowe writes that:

“Immigrant acts” names the agency of Asian immigrants and Asian Americans: the acts of labor, resistance, memory, and survival, as well as the politicized cultural work that emerges from dislocation and dis indentification. Asian immigrants and Asian Americans have not only been “subject to” immigration exclusion and restriction but have also been “subjects of” the immigration process and are agents of political change, cultural expression, and social transformation.

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