Abstract

This study integrates race and disability into a literary-historical analysis of the mostly anonymous poetry composed by Chinese migrants and inscribed onto the walls of the men's barracks of the US Immigration Station at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, 1910–1940. Scholarship in Asian American and Asian diaspora studies has approached this body of work as a modern reinvention of traditional Chinese poetic forms within a US context. This study considers the men's barracks a protest space created under disabling conditions of confinement, and it demonstrates how Angel Island detainees critiqued the racialized and ableist systems of social control that operated at the station. The poets attest to undergoing invasive imperial regimes of bodily inspection and medicalized racial exclusion, and they document lived experiences of chronic illness, depression, and the anguished temporality of detention space. As corpus of disabled life writing by early Asian American and Asian diaspora writers, Angel Island poetry offers wider access to non-English historical vocabularies of disability as well as environmental and holistic understandings of embodied conditions beyond Western diagnostic models. As a built environmental archive and a National Historic Landmark, Angel Island is a significant cultural site for exploring how race and disability operate concurrently as social constructions.

You do not currently have access to this content.