Paradoxes of a ‘New World’: Racial Melancholia and the National Symbolic in Interwar Period Immigration Discourse
Linkon, Sherry L
This thesis suggests that proliferating immigration discourse in the interwar period shapes subjective narratives of immigration at that time. First, it performs a reading of Carlos Bulosan’s America is in the Heart to suggest that what Anne Anlin Cheng calls racial melancholia shapes the form and the content of Bulosan’s work. Thinking transpacifically, this thesis tracks moments in which Bulosan’s kinetic storytelling crosses temporal and oceanic boundaries. These moments, it suggests, break with traditional readings of Bulosan that envision his text as ultimately naturalized or assimilated to an American future. In the second chapter, the thesis examines the 1934 Tydings-McDuffie act and Franklin Roosevelt’s 1936 Address Marking the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Statue of Liberty as examples of the proliferating, racial, and future-faced juridical and political discourse surrounding immigration and assimilation at the time. Ultimately, the thesis suggests, Bulosan’s text is neither a disruption of nor a reflection of this discourse, which forms what Lauren Berlant calls a “National Symbolic.” Rather, texts that describe and are shaped by embodied, subjective experiences of immigration are participants in discourse, both part of and fragmented by the discourse that surrounds them. Following recent developments in human rights studies, this thesis calls for attention to such embodied texts.
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