Synopses & Reviews
Immigration history has largely focused on the restriction of immigrants by race and ethnicity, overlooking disability as a crucial factor in the crafting of the image of theand#160; andldquo;undesirable immigrant.andrdquo; Defectives in the Land
, Douglas C. Bayntonandrsquo;s groundbreaking new look at immigration and disability, aims to change this.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Baynton explains, immigration restriction in the United States was primarily intended to keep people with disabilitiesandmdash;known as andldquo;defectivesandrdquo;andmdash;out of the country. The list of those included is long: the deaf, blind, epileptic, and mobility impaired; people with curved spines, hernias, flat or club feet, missing limbs, and short limbs; those unusually short or tall; people with intellectual or psychiatric disabilities; intersexuals; men of andldquo;poor physiqueandrdquo; and men diagnosed with andldquo;feminism.andrdquo; Not only were disabled individuals excluded, but particular races and nationalities were also identified as undesirable based on their supposed susceptibility to mental, moral, and physical defects.
In this transformative book, Baynton argues that early immigration laws were a cohesive wholeandmdash;a decades-long effort to find an effective method of excluding people considered to be defective. This effort was one aspect of our culture that was increasingly fixated on competition and efficiency, anxious about physical appearance and difference, and haunted by a fear of hereditary defect and the degeneration of the American race.
Since it was first published 11 years ago, Coming to America has taken its place as the best history of immigration to this country that we have. Now this lavishly illustrated edition features a lengthy new chapter, "Immigration in an Age of Globalization, " a new preface, and appendices on recent immigration statistics.
With a timely new chapter on immigration in the current age of globalization, a new Preface, and new appendixes with the most recent statistics, this revised edition is an engrossing study of immigration to the United States from the colonial era to the present.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 477-491) and index.
and#147;Defective.and#8221; and#147;Handicapped.and#8221; and#147;Ugly.and#8221; and#147;Dependent.and#8221; These words are Douglas Bayntonand#8217;s chapter titles, labels that were used to describe disabled immigrants during the period of American history when a series of laws were put in place to restrict immigration from and#147;less desirable nationsand#8221; (from Southern and Eastern Europe, 1882 to 1920s). Bayntonand#8217;s history details the ways in which a great variety of disabled immigrants were turned back during these years, among them the deaf, blind, epileptic, and mobility-impaired, also people with curved spines, hernias, flat or club feet, missing limbs, and short limbs, also those who had intellectual or psychiatric disability, even men diagnosed with and#147;poor physiqueand#8221; or and#147;feminismand#8221; (underdeveloped sex organs). The labels and and#147;defectsand#8221; are named in immigration policies and procedures; Baynton insists, quite reasonably, that immigration law offers the clearest revelation of the eraand#8217;s cultural assumptions about disability. One of his findings is that disability, even more than race (which is usually highlighted in immigration histories), was the main concern of immigration restrictionists. Over time, the idea that disabled people were dependent, and thus a burden, got amplified and became a social issue, not confined to family or local community. Meanwhile, the stigma of visible defects grew in intensity, along with the fear of traits that could not be seen (germ theory, defective and#147;germ plasm,and#8221; infectious diseases). Polluted heredity flowing into the future was an ever-present fear. Until now, with Defectives in the Land, the issue of discrimination against people with disabilities in immigration law has gone unrecognized and unexamined.
About the Author
Roger Daniels is Charles Phelps Taft Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Cincinnati. He received his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1961 and is a past president of both the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. He has written widely about Asian Americans and immigration. Among his most recent books are Not Like Us: Immigrants and Minorities in America, 1890-1924; Debating American Immigration, 1882-Present (with Otis Graham); and American Immigration: A Student Companion.