Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Munshi on the Denaturalization of Indian Immigrants after Thind

My Georgetown Law colleague Sherally K. Munshi, has posted “You Will See My Family Became So American”: Towards a Minor Comparativism, which appeared in the American Journal of Comparative Law 63 (2015): 655-717:
How does the appearance of racial difference shape our view of citizenship and national identity? This Article seeks to address that question by examining two early twentieth-century cases involving the naturalization of Indian immigrants in the United States.

In United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923), the Supreme Court determined that "Hindus" were not eligible for citizenship under the terms of the Naturalization Act because they were not "white persons." The Court recognized that, although individual immigrants from India had proven themselves capable of cultural assimilation, as a group, they were disqualified because they would remain visually unassimilable. Through a close reading of the Court's analysis, this Article examines the way in which law participates in the visual construction of both national identity and racial difference.

Dinshah P. Ghadiali was one of several Indian immigrants whom the United States sought to denaturalize in the wake of Thind. Since the Court had announced that visual assimilability was the relevant test for naturalization, Ghadiali found himself in the peculiar position of having to defend his citizenship by demonstrating to a judge that he looked white. At his denaturalization trial, Ghadiali submitted into evidence several photographs of himself, his children, and his properties, assuring the judge, "You will see my family became so American." Through these photographs, I explore the demands of visual conformity that the law imposes on racialized minorities.

Finally, this Article seeks to introduce to comparative legal scholarship a method of engaging the reflections of minority subjects to challenge the received authority of legal texts, a method I call a "minor comparativism."

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