Emma Teng Lecture

Boston’s King Incident of 1905

Chinese Students and the Intersectionality of Race and Class
Mar 5, 2020, 4:30–6 PM
Newhouse Center for the Humanities
Free and open to the public

In this lecture, Emma J. Teng examines the King incident of 1905, in which four Chinese students were detained and denied landing at the port of Boston. She will discuss the role of this incident in contestations over immigration law to elucidate the conflicted position of Chinese elites – disempowered by race yet empowered by class status – under Exclusion. An international controversy involving the detention of four wealthy students seeking to enter the US at Boston, the King case touched off public protest from Euro-American elites and business contingents and also pushed forward the American Boycott movement in Shanghai. The case served as a key triggering incident in the pivot away from the movement for a wholesale “Chinese ban” toward the institutionalization of class discernment in US immigration policy. An examination of this case helps restore our understanding of the agency of individual Chinese elites in the political negotiations that shaped Chinese Exclusion as both obstruction and flow, and contributes to the analysis of the dynamic intersectionality of race and class under this border regime.

Emma Teng is the T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilization at MIT. She teaches courses in Chinese culture, Chinese migration history, Asian American history, East Asian culture, and women's and gender studies.

Generously supported by:

the Newhouse Center for the Humanities and the department of East Asian language and cultures.