070: Madeline Y. Hsu, 40


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

70: Madeline Y. Hsu, 10-8-07

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Associate Professor, Department of History and Director, Center for Asian American Studies. University of Texas at Austin
Area of Research: Migration, transnationalism, and ethnic studies.
Education: Ph.D. History, Yale University, 1996
Major Publications: Hsu is the author of Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration Between the United States and South China, 1882-1943, (Stanford University Press, 2000). Madeline Y. Hsu JPG Awarded Association for Asian American Studies History Book Award in 2002. She is the co-editor with Sucheng Chan of Chinese Americans and the Politics of Race and Culture, (Temple University Press, 2008). She is also the editor of the forthcoming Transnational Politics and the Press in Chinese American History: Collected Essays of Him Mark Lai.
Hsu is currently working on Migration in the Shadow of Empires: Ideological Constructions of Taiwanese Chinese Mobility and Ethnic Transformation, 1943-2004. Monograph exploring the Cold War intersections between American and Chinese foreign policy goals to migration policies and ethnic representations of Taiwanese Chinese in the United States.
Hsu is also the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters including: “From Chop Suey to Mandarin Cusine: Fine Dining and the Refashioning of Chinese Ethnicity during the Cold War Era,” in Chinese Americans and the Politics of Race and Culture, edited by Sucheng Chan and Madeline Hsu, (Temple University Press, 2008); Trading with the Gold Mountain: Jinshanzhuang and Networks of Kinship and Native Place, 1849-1949,” in Chinese American Transnationalism: The Flow of People, Resources, and Ideas between China and America during the Exclusion Era, edited by Sucheng Chan, (Temple University Press, 2006); “Qiaokan and the Transnational Community of Taishan County, 1882-1943.” “Transnational Dimensions of the Chinese Press, 1850-1949,” a special issue of the China Review edited by Bryna Goodman and Arif Dirlik. 4:1 (Spring 2004): 123-144; and “Unwrapping Orientalist Constraints: Restoring Homosocial Normativity to Chinese American History.” Amerasia Journal 29:2 (Summer 2003): 231-253, among others.
Awards: Hsu is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Dean’s Fellowship, University of Texas at Austin. Fall 2006;
Wang Family Faculty Stipend, San Francisco State University, 2005-6;
Vice-President’s Assigned Time, San Francisco State University, Spring 2005;
Association for Asian American Studies History Book Award 2002;
Affirmative Action Faculty Development Program, San Francisco State University, Spring 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001;
Vice-President’s Summer Stipend, San Francisco State University, Summer 1997, 1998, 1999;
Presidential Award for Professional Development of Probationary Faculty, San Francisco State University, Fall 1997;
East Asian Studies Prize Fellowship, 1994-96;
Exchange Scholar at the University of California at Berkeley, 1995;
Henry Hart Rice Advanced Research Fellowship, 1993-94;
Bradley Foundation Fellowship in International and Diplomatic History, 1993-94;
I.S.P./Smith Richardson Foundation Fellowship, 1993-94;
Andrew W. Mellon Research/Travel Grant, 1993;
Nominated for Prize Teaching Fellowship, Spring 1993;
Andrew W. Mellon Pre-Dissertation Fellowship, 1992;
University Fellowship, Yale University, 1989-93;
Phi Beta Kappa, Pomona College, 1989;
John H. Kemble Senior Thesis Award, Pomona College, 1989;
Chan-Sophonpanich Award for outstanding graduating student of color, Pomona College, 1989.
Additional Info:
Formerly Associate Professor, Asian American Studies, College of Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University, 1996-2006.
Hsu served as a consultant for “The Gold Rush,” Yellow Jersey Films, 2004, “Bill Moyers Presents: Becoming American – The Chinese Experience.” PBS, aired 2003, and “In America: The Chinese Story.” International Channel, 2001. Aired August 2001.

Personal Anecdote

Like many other historians, my intellectual projects emerge from the ebb and flow of my daily life. My childhood was spent shuttling between my maternal grandparents’ home in the one-road town of Altheimer, Arkansas and the various Chinese cities where my father found employment-including Hsinchu and Tainan in Taiwan and two different stints in Hong Kong. I grew up intensely aware of American racial dynamics that located Chinese between white and black (and by the 1970s, literally at the outskirts of the white side of the tracks) but also of the protection and privilege attached to being American in developing nations and economies overseas. Living among fellow ethnic Chinese desperate for an opportunity to migrate to the fabled Gold Mountain of the United States, my family was anomalous in having returned from more prosperous shores. Unlike most other American-born Chinese-who spend their formative years primarily in the United States-my main points of reference are of the multi-directional movements and fluid processes of adaptation that are possible for mobile agents with the languages and skills to function successfully in different societies. In contrast to beleaguered immigrants who arrive and are expected to disappear into America’s famous melting pot, such transnational migrants–a useful scholarly concept that I encountered in the 1990s and applied to my life in hindsight-do not blend in or remain in one place.

In graduate school, when I first decided to study back-and forth mobility like that of my family, I did not realize that I was entering an intellectually and institutionally liminal space. The field of history has been defined in great part by geographically bounded countries and regions and the peoples, cultures, and hierarchies attached to them. Many histories serve to articulate and legitimate the structures of power–and inequality-within certain societies and places. My intellectual interests intersect but do not overlap with these more conventional histories in significant ways, particularly because migrants are often perceived as dire threats or disappear altogether from narratives intended to define national borders and the people who belong within. As a historian studying Chinese migrants who are constantly on the move, rather than sinking roots and becoming loyal citizens, I felt like something of an academic platypus–not really a modern Chinese mammal nor a twentieth-century North American duck. As my dissertation neared completion, it also was not clear for what jobs I could convincingly apply.

Since the mid 1990s, the rise of Asian American Studies under the umbrella of Ethnic Studies Chinese Americans and the Politics of Race and Culture JPG has provided more of an institutional home within the academy for projects such as mine. Even so, Asian American Studies remains largely preoccupied with claiming America for Asians, who for much of their history in the United States have been legally restricted from entry and citizenship by naturalization. My colleagues in Asian American Studies have produced paradigmatic, award-winning scholarship that situates the relatively tiny population of Asians at the center of national frameworks because they played such key ideological roles in framing the racial boundaries of belonging in the United States.

My projects run counter to such agendas by exploring the daily realities of migrants whose messy lives regularly transgress borders in accruing ongoing relationships and ties to multiple locations. They do not fit tidily into national narratives which demand that people identify clearly with one place and with one state. Despite the unease that such nonassimilation arouses, migrants pursue chiefly economic–rather than political goals–in seeking better lives particularly for their children when not attainable for themselves. In impoverished regions, dissatisfaction with limited choices can nurture strikingly aspirational mindsets that separate families and impel bodies through space in pursuit of distant, and sometimes imaginary, opportunities. Migrants are often seen as problems-as a kind of invasion, threats to national security, or an indigestible biomass infecting American society-but are deeply human in their highly pragmatic and often quixotic quests for greater prosperity and stability. Their contrasting priorities and lack of settlement set migrants at odds with nation-states, as demonstrated so vividly in the heated and seemingly irreconcilable debates concerning illegal immigration here.

I regard migration as a profound manifestation of global inequalities through which American attempts to secure its borders project its considerable authority into the farthest and most impoverished corners of the globe. What began for me as a social history of my family’s experiences of coming (but not staying) in America has become a broader project that attempts to provide an alternative narrative and human faces for some of the most marginalized of historical subjects. They too have stories that must be told, even when these undermine America’s claims to greatness as a “nation of immigrants.”


By Madeline Y. Hsu

  • Taishanese Americans adapted and made choices as they journeyed from place to place. They compared the merits and possibilities across a geographically dispersed field of action when deciding where to work, where to locate their Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943 JPG families, and whether to consign their loyalties more permanently to one place. In order to capture this kind of kaleidoscopic reality, I portray migration as a fluid process of mobility and diversification, rather than as an invasion or uprooting. Migration transformed Taishan into a community unbounded by physical space. Despite strong, locally focused sensibilities marked by a distinctive dialect, cuisine, and sense of native place, Taishanese experienced life as active participants in global systems of trade, labor, and colonization. Taishanese applied traditional practices and expectations of family life, loyalty to native place, kinship organization, and sojourning to the project of carving out their share of a globalizing economy. They demonstrate the abilities of people from a rural Asian society to successfully negotiate their encounters with a Western-dominated, industrializing world. — Madeline Y. Hsu in “Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943”

About Madeline Y. Hsu

  • “An outstanding book, and exemplar of how to do a transnational study that captures the often globe-spanning histories of migrants out of Asia. . . . Hsu’s imaginative use of both English and Chinese language sources is impressive. . . . Besides being a wonderful archival historian, Hsu also writes well, and she weaves a tapestry of the larger contexts of historical events in both China and the United States by threading in the poignant examples of individual lives.” — Journal of Asian American Studies reviewing “Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943
  • “A work of impressive scholarship-there is new and important information on almost every page of this book. It will be required reading for Asian Americanists, immigration historians, students of transnationalism and diaspora, and social historians of 20th-century China.” — Robert G. Lee, Brown University reviewing “Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943
  • “This well-researched book is an important addition to the literature on Chinese American history; and as a well-written social history with insights into the key links between Taishan and America, it enhances our understanding of the richness and complexities of Taishanese transnational experiences.” — The Journal of American History reviewing “Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943
  • “Most previous studies have tended to set the spotlight on the Gold Mountain, and had very little data on the impact of overseas Chinese immigrants on their homeland. The present volume fills this research gap. It demonstrates how a transnational approach can print a balance sheet showing how the Taishanese measured the long periods of hardship they endured in the Gold Mountain against the opportunities to actualize their committments to their families in Taishan and to thd Taishan community. Unlike other studies of the Chinese in America, this volume tells a complete story.” — Ethnic and Racial Studies reviewing “Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943
  • “Hsu, a third-generation Chinese American, has a facility in her ancestral language unusual for members of her generation, so that this work has the bilingual strengths usually associated with China-born scholars.” — Immigrants and Minorities reviewing “Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943
  • “A superior achievement. It is clearly written, based on a wide variety of sources in two languages from two continents, and closely and acutely reasoned. One hopes to see more work from this most promising young scholar.” — Immigrants and Minorities reviewing “Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943
  • “This imaginatively conceived and researched study illustrates the possibilities offered by a transnational approach to the study of migrant populations but also some of the fundamental problems it presents. The study draws skillfully upon contemporary reconceptualizations of migration that seek to overcome the limitations of nation-based approaches . . . .Hsu presents an informative and illuminating account of migration to North America from the Taishan county of Guangdong province on South China and its consequences for Taishan economy and society . . . .The author is successful throughout in bringing to light previously unknown material and adding valuable detail to earlier studies of Chinese migrant experience in China and the United States.” — Journal of American Ethnic History reviewing “Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943
  • “This is a wonderful book. It is a work of the highest scholarly standards, impeccably researched, and is also readable, touching, and perceptive.” — The International History Review reviewing “Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943
  • “Recipient of the 2002 Association of Asian American Studies’ book award, Hsu is able to call on her talents as both a Chinese and Asian American historian to weave a transnational analysis of the immigration history of Taishanese in both locations.” — Journal of Asian Studies reviewing “Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943

Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2007 at 4:57 PM

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1 Comment

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