Twenty Years of Irish American Historiography and No Lamps Were Lit for Them

Twenty Years of Irish American Historiography and No Lamps Were Lit for Them

Kevin Kenny begins Twenty Years of Irish American Historiography by reviewing Kerby Miller’s Emigrants and Exiles, which Kenny claims to be the most influential work of Irish American history ever written. In his work, Miller explores why the Irish view their migration as forced exile instead of migration as a new opportunity, a new start (67). Then, Kenny continues on by exploring Irish American historical scholarship focused on themes such as the process of migration, the colonial period of American history, labor and race, and interaction of Irish with other immigrant and ethnic groups in the United States, as well as the transnational context for Irish American history (68).  On page 70, Kenny writes about the “whiteness” thesis, which he claims is debated in Irish American historiography. The “whiteness” thesis argues that Irish weren’t considered white when then arrived to American, but through historically distancing themselves from African Americans and other colored people, they “earned recognition by American society at large of their full racial equality,” (71). On the next page, Kenny wonders why if these immigrants could become “white” in order to improve their situation/condition, but Black people could not, then what kind of racism did Irish immigrants experience. Towards the end Kenny discusses transnational and transglobal views and ways of thinking of Irish American history/historiography, and how they demonstrated their “Irish-American nationalism” (73).

 

In No Lamps Were Lit for Them: Angel Island and the Historiography of Asian American Immigration by Roger Daniels, the author begins with a brief history of Angel Island (2-6). He explains that while most literature about the Island is mainly about the Chinese, other Asian and Europeans passed through the Island as well. Although diplomats were never held on the Island, the only Chinese immigrants allowed in the country during the exclusion era were merchants, students, travelers, and those who could claim citizenship (6).  Continuing on, Daniels discusses paper sons and daughters. These ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ were admitted into the country under false names, claiming to be the children/ family of immigrants or Chinese Americans already there. Because of this immigration service used interrogative techniques to find out those who were falsely claiming American citizenship (8). On page 10 Daniels suggests that Asian American historiography can be divided into four periods: a period of scorn, period of neglect, period of increasing (but limited) awareness, and a period of Asian American history which has affected Asian American historiography (10), which he expands upon on the following pages. Daniels concludes by stating that for millions of Asian Americans, Angel Island had become a dark symbol of what their ancestors experienced in our country, and insists that Angel Island deserves a spot in American iconography (15).

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