Alien Nation

Chinese Migration in the Americas from the Coolie Era through World War II

By Elliott Young

384 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 32 halftones, 4 figures, 2 maps, 1 table, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1296-6
    Published: November 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-1340-6
    Published: November 2014
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4669-3
    Published: November 2014

David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History

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Awards & distinctions

Honorable Mention, 2016 Luciano Tomassini Latin American International Relations Book Award, Latin American Studies Association

In this sweeping work, Elliott Young traces the pivotal century of Chinese migration to the Americas, beginning with the 1840s at the start of the "coolie" trade and ending during World War II. The Chinese came as laborers, streaming across borders legally and illegally and working jobs few others wanted, from constructing railroads in California to harvesting sugar cane in Cuba. Though nations were built in part from their labor, Young argues that they were the first group of migrants to bear the stigma of being "alien." Being neither black nor white and existing outside of the nineteenth century Western norms of sexuality and gender, the Chinese were viewed as permanent outsiders, culturally and legally. It was their presence that hastened the creation of immigration bureaucracies charged with capture, imprisonment, and deportation.

This book is the first transnational history of Chinese migration to the Americas. By focusing on the fluidity and complexity of border crossings throughout the Western Hemisphere, Young shows us how Chinese migrants constructed alternative communities and identities through these transnational pathways.

Published with support provided by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas

About the Author

Elliott Young is professor of Latin American and borderlands history at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.
For more information about Elliott Young, visit the Author Page.


“This excellent book will interest students of the formation of state immigration bureaucracies, administrative law, law as engaged by people, and Chinese diasporas.”--Journal of American History

"The book remains valuable as a history of the development of anti-Chinese immigration systems across the Western Hemisphere."--American Historical Review

“[This] solidly researched book [is] informative and rewarding, a welcome addition to a topic important then and now.”--Hispanic American Historical Review

“An excellent contribution to our growing understanding of one of the 19th and 20th centuries’ most significant migration flows.”--World History Connected

“Sheds light on many little known facts and details. . . . A fascinating, well-written, and well-documented work.”--Oregon Historical Quarterly

"A sweeping yet nuanced study of transnational Chinese migration to the Americas, spanning the mid-nineteenth century through the decade of the Great Depression . . . . Young has done a great service for scholars of migration studies, the Chinese in the Americas, borderlands, and transnational history in general."--H-Net Reviews

Multimedia & Links

Visit the author's website

Follow him on Twitter @elliottyoungpdx.

Read: Young's op-ed in The Oregonian: "The U.S. should make legal immigration easier." (11/11/2014)