A Nation of Immigrants
Date: Thursday, November 21
Time: 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Location: Classroom Building Room 100
Mae Ngai examines the history of the idea that we are a nation of immigrants, a core concept of the American liberal narrative of inclusion. She shows that it is a relatively recent idea, which emerged only after World War II, in order to promote the inclusion of Euro-Americans who descended from the Ellis Island generation. More than a description, “nation of immigrants” expresses a normative theory of inclusion by way of assimilation. By placing the idea in history, Ngai points to both its promise and limits.
Mae M. Ngai, Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History, is a U.S. legal and political historian interested in questions of immigration, citizenship, and nationalism. She is author of the award-winning Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (2004) and The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America (2010). She has written on immigration history and policy for the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other publications. Before becoming a historian she was a labor-union organizer and educator in New York City. She is now writing The Chinese Question (under contract with WW Norton), a study of Chinese gold miners and racial politics in nineteenth-century California, Australia, and South Africa; and Nation of Immigrants: A Short History of an Idea (under contract with Princeton University Press).