The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes, Chinese Migration, and Global Politics

When and Where

Thursday, October 13, 2022 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Online & Campbell Conference Facility (154S)
Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy
1 Devonshire Place


Mae Ngai


BOOK TALK | Hybrid Event
followed by reception

In roughly five decades, between 1848 and 1899, more gold was removed from the earth than had been mined in the 3,000 preceding years, bringing untold wealth to individuals and nations. But friction between Chinese and white settlers on the goldfields of California, Australia, and South Africa catalyzed a global battle over “the Chinese Question”: would the United States and the settler colonies of the British Empire outlaw Chinese immigration? Professor Ngai offers a new history of the Chinese diaspora in the West, situating it in the history of global capitalism, in which a feverish alchemy of race and money brought Chinese people to the West and reshaped the nineteenth-century world.

Speaker's Bio:

Mae M. Ngai is Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History, and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. She  is a U.S. legal and political historian interested in the histories of immigration, citizenship, nationalism, and the Chinese diaspora.
She is author of the award winning Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (2004); The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America (2010); and The Chinese Question:
The Gold Rushes and Global Politics (2021).  Ngai has written on immigration history and policy for the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, the Nation, and Dissent. Before becoming a historian she was a labor-union organizer and educator in New York City, working for District 65-UAW and the Consortium for Worker Education. She is now writing Nation of Immigrants: A Short History of an Idea (under contract with Princeton University Press).

Contact Information


Asian Institute


1 Devonshire Place