Monday, March 23, 2009

Some Good Books in Asian Legal History (III): Scully, Bargaining with the State from Afar

Some of the most interesting work in Asian legal history in the last few years has examined the operation of western legal systems in turn-of-the-century China, particularly in the coastal cities and regions known as concessions or treaty ports. In Bargaining with the State from Afar: American Citizenship in Treaty Port China, 1844-1942, Eileen Scully examines U.S. citizens living abroad in China. Her book “explores the bargaining process between federal officials and these sojourners over the rights and responsibilities of U.S. nationality beyond the territorial confines of the American nation.”

As a study of U.S. citizens outside the geographic space of the nation, Bargaining with the State from Afar is an excellent complement to the growing literature in American history that examines the legal status of aliens and migrants in the U.S. Likewise, in contrast to so much recent work in history that sees transnationality as a site of power, Scully emphasizes the legal and political vulnerability of U.S. citizens abroad.