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Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco's Chinatown (American Crossroads) 0th Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0520226296
ISBN-10: 0520226291
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Nayan Shah has written a book of exceptional originality and importance. With a focus on issues of body, family, and home, central concerns of urban health reform, he illuminates the role of political leaders, public opinion, and professionals in the construction and reconstruction of race and the making of citizens in San Francisco. He brilliantly analyzes the politics of the movement from exclusion to inclusion, regulation to entitlement, showing it to be an interactive process. Yet, as he shows with great subtlety, the mark of race remains. As a study of citizenship and difference, this work speaks to a central theme of American history."—Thomas Bender, Director of the International Center for Advanced Studies at NYU, and editor of Rethinking American History in a Global Age

Contagious Divides is an ambitious contribution to our understanding of the troubled history of race in America. Nayan Shah offers new insight into the ways that race was inscribed on the streets, the bodies, and the institutions of San Francisco's Chinatown. Above all, he offers powerful examples of the impact of ideas about disease, sexuality, and place on the rhetoric and practice of racial inequality in modern America.—Thomas J. Sugrue, author of The Origins of the Urban Crisis

About the Author

Nayan Shah is Professor and Chair of the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California and the author of Contagious Divides (UC Press).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520226291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520226296
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #511,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Hall on April 9, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Even though the United States was still a young country during the nineteenth century - where Shah begins his interweaving of public health, race, and citizenship - a strong enough sense of identity had been established to create a milieu of xenophobia with regard to non-Western cultures. In setting up the perspective of the alien as Other and tracing its influences throughout the health crises of San Francisco into the twentieth century, Shah establishes viral contamination as metaphor for cultural contamination. The threat from invaders comes not merely from their different cultural practices but also from their very biology, conflating a social threat with a physical one. White culture became the normative body by which Chinese difference was articulated.

As viruses and other contagious diseases were just beginning to be studied scientifically, some of the advancements were applied for the improvement of individuals while other advancements were used for the improvement of the society around those individuals through suppression or quarantine. A study of the maps of San Francisco that Shah provides read almost like an anatomy diagram, showing the growing cell of the foreign invader in the body politic. Maintenance of a spatial boundary, in order to control disease, transformed into maintenance of a racial boundary.

Throughout the text, Shah presents a considerable amount of evidence from many disparate sources, showing the collusion - often conscious, but sometimes not - of scientific, economic, legal, and other forces.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By hollypenyo on June 25, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was an in-depth book on how the Chinese were forced to live in SF Chinatown ethnic enclaves, and it also demonstrates how governments and their departments use institutional racism to scapegoat the Chinese when they first came to the U.S. Great book.
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