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When Did Asian Become Yellow?

Event Type
Yellow Peril Redux Online Speaker Series
wifi event
Apr 14, 2023   11:00 am  
Michael Keevak
Originating Calendar
International and Area Studies Library

Professor Keevak will dig into the intriguing historical process by which East Asians became “yellow.” In their earliest encounters with East Asia, Europeans almost uniformly characterized the people of China and Japan as white, yet by the end of the seventeenth century the category of whiteness was reserved for Europeans only. When did Asians become "yellow" in the Western imagination? This talk will explore the notion of yellowness and show that the label originated not in early travel texts or objective descriptions, but in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scientific discourses on race. Once East Asians were lumped together as members of the "Mongolian race" they began to be considered yellow.

Michael Keevak is a professor of foreign languages at National Taiwan University, where he has taught for the past thirty years. He has published six books, including Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking, and is now at work on a seventh, a history of the terrible term "Chinaman."

This speech will be chaired/moderated by Dr. Craig Koslofsky, professor of History and Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who works in early modern European and global history. He is researching how societies in the early modern world understood skin and how their views evolved.

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