Contagious Divides - Epidemics & Race in San Francisco's Chinatown (Anglais) Broché – 5 octobre 2001
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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. Initially, one of the most important of the media shaped the city's perception of its Chinese foreign nationals through its articles, particularly through its use of pseudo-scientific jargon and its likening of the Chinese to vermin, another icon of plague; this also dehumanized the Chinese population by relegating them to the border spaces of civilized (white, Western) society.
Shah engages in critical debate about dominant versus subordinate social class, using his sources to illuminate developments within both Chinatown and the rest of San Francisco. By the end of Shah's text, the processes of governance transform the alien into the citizen much like the medication that can control and cure a disease, and he wonders if the ways of cultural assimilation are so strong that, in many ways, they eradicate something essential in the original individual. The patient has been saved, but at what cost?
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