Immigrant Acts

On Asian American Cultural Politics

Immigrant Acts

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: Published: October 1996

Author: Lisa Lowe

Asian American Studies, Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

In Immigrant Acts, Lisa Lowe argues that understanding Asian immigration to the United States is fundamental to understanding the racialized economic and political foundations of the nation. Lowe discusses the contradictions whereby Asians have been included in the workplaces and markets of the U.S. nation-state, yet, through exclusion laws and bars from citizenship, have been distanced from the terrain of national culture.
Lowe argues that a national memory haunts the conception of Asian American, persisting beyond the repeal of individual laws and sustained by U.S. wars in Asia, in which the Asian is seen as the perpetual immigrant, as the “foreigner-within.” In Immigrant Acts, she argues that rather than attesting to the absorption of cultural difference into the universality of the national political sphere, the Asian immigrant—at odds with the cultural, racial, and linguistic forms of the nation—displaces the temporality of assimilation. Distance from the American national culture constitutes Asian American culture as an alternative site that produces cultural forms materially and aesthetically in contradiction with the institutions of citizenship and national identity. Rather than a sign of a “failed” integration of Asians into the American cultural sphere, this critique preserves and opens up different possibilities for political practice and coalition across racial and national borders.
In this uniquely interdisciplinary study, Lowe examines the historical, political, cultural, and aesthetic meanings of immigration in relation to Asian Americans. Extending the range of Asian American critique, Immigrant Acts will interest readers concerned with race and ethnicity in the United States, American cultures, immigration, and transnationalism.


“One of the most sophisticated reflections I have read on the immigrant condition and ‘minority’ status in the United States. . . . These chapters are exemplary displays of critical, cultural analysis, to be emulated and to be mined for their dexterity with multilayered texts.” — Eduardo Mendieta , Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

“In Immigrant Acts Lisa Lowe analyzes Asian American cultural production as a site of contest over the terms of membership in the national body. In doing so, she contributes invaluably to theorizing the connections between cultural production on one hand, and racial formation and subaltern studies on the other.” — Laura Schiavo , American Studies International

“In this important feminist materialist critique of juridical and cultural representations of Asian Americanness, Lisa Lowe argues compellingly for paying rigorous attention to the connections among politics, culture, and economic conditions and practices.” — Kandace Chuh, American Literature

“Lisa Lowe has written a book that will take its rightful place as an authority in the field of cultural studies. . . . Immigrant Acts is a sophisticated, complex book.” — Valerie Fong, Pacific Reader

“One of the most significant contributions of Immigrant Acts [is] its demonstration of a materialist feminist practice devoted to the analysis of interactions among gender, race, class, and nation.” — Robyn Wiegman , Signs

"Lowe’s discussion of Asian-American literature is fascinating . . . [She] succeeds in interrogating and expanding conventional notions of immigrant and ethnic identities and . . . will challenge any reader’s preconceptions about who is and is not an American and why." — , Women's Review of Books

Immigrant Acts is a compelling and persuasively written presentation of Asian American ‘cultural production.’ It is both an exciting and instructive volume.” — Barbara Harlow, The University of Texas at Austin

“At long last a study that theorized the crucial place of the Asian American Immigrant Subject in the historical constitution of “the color line,” and thus, in the making of America. Tracing the genealogy of Asian immigrant labor and cultural production in the racial and gender formations of the pre-World War II, and contemporary U.S. State, Lisa Lowe offers us an ambitious, elegant, and incisive analysis that propels Asian immigrant women workers (and comparative feminist theory) to the center of discourses of nation and citizenship. Truly a book for the twenty first century.” — Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Hamilton College

“In Immigrant Acts, Lowe grapples with some of the most challenging and complex issues before us in the humanities and in cultural studies today. This is a major work by a mature scholar who brings authority and wisdom to her subject.” — Emory Elliott, University of California, Riverside

“Lisa Lowe does the most important and influential work in Asian American cultural studies today. Her book is noteworthy for its breathtakingly skillful deployment of ‘materialist methodology,’ its penetrating and sensitive interpretations of various works of literature and film, and its attention to the relationships between Asian American cultural production and social and political issues in Asian American communities. Immigrant Acts is written with sophisticated grace. A profoundly and passionately humane voice emerges from it.” — Elaine H. Kim, University of California, Berkeley

“Lisa Lowe has written a brilliant, erudite, and meticulously thorough ‘genealogy’ and critique of the U.S. institution of citizenship and immigration acts. Immigrant Acts will take its place as an indispensable text for theorists in cultural studies, ethno-racial literary studies, and Asian American feminist materialist critique. A stunning tour de force!” — José David Saldívar, University of California, Berkeley


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lisa Lowe is Samuel Knight Professor of American Studies at Yale University, and is the author of Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms and coeditor (with David Lloyd) of The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital (Duke University Press).

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

1. Immigration, Citizenship, Racialization: Asian American Critique 1

2. Canon, Institutionalization, Identity: Asian American Studies 37

3. Heterogeneity, Hybridity, Multiplicity: Asian American Differences 60

4. Imagining Los Angeles in the Production of Multiculturalism 84

5. Decolonization, Displacement, Disidentification: Writing and the Question of History 97

6. Unfaithful to the Original: The Subject of Dictee 128

7. Work, Immigration, Gender: Asian "American" Women 154

Epilogue 174

Notes 177

Bibliography 223

Index 241
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Honorable mention, 1997 John Hope Franklin Award

Winner, 1997 National Book Award in Cultural Studies, Association of Asian American Studies

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1864-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1858-3
Publicity material