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Department ofHistory

Stories

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.”

Abstract:

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.