Embodying place: Pathologizing Chinese and Chinatown in nineteenth-century San Francisco

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25 Scopus citations


This paper argues for uniting disease with body theories in investigations of power relations and the construction of race. It examines this alliance through the case studies of smallpox and syphilis in nineteenth century San Francisco. In locating epidemics inside the Chinese community and by reproducing Chinese bodies as intrinsically diseased, medical theories explaining smallpox and syphilis succeeded in shifting dominant constructions of race from different to pathological. But the process of body production and the role of disease in it cannot be divorced from a simultaneous analysis of the production of place. The configuration of Chinatown's streets and alleyways, perceptions of filth and crowding, and the bodies resident within Chinatown were simultaneously pathologized in a process that exemplifies the need for a better integration of body theories with theories of the social production of place.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-371
Number of pages21
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


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