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Department ofHistory


Sonia Gomez: The Anti-Japanese Movement of 1908-1924

New article rethinks the making of the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1908

Sonia Gomez is the author of "'Yankee, Why Does a Big Man like You Fear My Baby?”: The Politics of the Anti-Japanese Movement, 1908-1924," Amerasia (December 2020): 1-19, in a special issue on “Rethinking Gendered Citizenship–Intimacy, Sovereignty, and Empire.”


This article rethinks the making of the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1908 arguing that the agreement between the U.S. and Japan was not singularly a mechanism of exclusion but one that had the power to include and exclude. Further, it examines political discourse between 1908 and 1924 to show how Japanese women’s labor – both reproductive and productive – became a source of deep anxiety for anti-Japanese exclusionists in the early twentieth century leading to a panic that further incited the anti-Japanese movement and ultimately led to full exclusion. In their anti-Japanese campaign, statesmen and public officials drew upon a politics of fear targeting the (re)productivity of Japanese women at a time when birth rates amongst white American women were declining and immigration from Japan Southern and Eastern European was climbing. This panic, like other anti-immigrant movements that targeted women throughout the twentieth century, was a means to achieve political hegemony in the west at a time when white American settlement was not a foregone conclusion.