Skip to main content

Michael Jin, History, University of Illinois Chicago

  • When: February 22, 2023, 12 pm
  • Where: Zoom: To register, contact Sophie Kofman at

Calendar event Add this event to your calendar (Outlook, iCal, etc…)

HYBRID In-Person/Virtual Event with VIRTUAL SPEAKER

From Citizens to Aliens: Asian Americans and the Racial Limits of American Citizenship

February 19, 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, which followed Ozawa v. United States. This talk honors the history of Asian Americans and their struggle for US citizenship amid pervasive anti-Asian xenophobia in the early twentieth century.

The landmark 1922 Supreme Course case Ozawa v. United States stamped the legal status of immigrants from Japan as “aliens ineligible for citizenship,” bolstering the intense exclusion movement based on the powerful Orientalist representation of Asians as unassimilable foreigners. This movement to police the racial boundaries of citizenship not only excluded Asian immigrants from American citizenry, but also threatened the citizenship rights of U.S.-born Asian Americans. In their concerted effort to strip Asian Americans’ birthright citizenship, leading anti-immigrant agitators deployed the same xenophobic rhetoric to argue that U.S.-born Japanese Americans should be treated as Japanese nationals. Japanese Americans’ struggles to protect the integrity of their birthright citizenship demonstrate that exclusionary legal measures designed to stop the influx of Asians did not simply affect the immigrant generation. Focusing on the experiences of Japanese Americans throughout the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, this talk explores the complex and bizarre consequences of the pervasive anti-Asian xenophobia in the American West that rendered many Americans of Japanese ancestry stateless and subject to legal exclusion as “aliens ineligible for citizens.” 

Michael R. Jin is an Associate Professor of History and Global Asian Studies. His areas of specialization include migration and diaspora studies, Asian American history, transnational Asia and the Pacific world, critical race and ethnic studies, and the history of the American West.

His book, Citizens, Immigrants, and the Stateless: A Japanese American Diaspora in the Pacific (Stanford University Press), uncovers the stories of more than 50,000 U.S.-born Japanese Americans in the former Japanese colonial world in Asia who drew the U.S. West into the larger histories of nations and empires in the Pacific before, during, and after World War II. 

His current research documents the experiences of Korean survivors of the nuclear holocaust in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 that illuminate the legacies of Japanese colonialism, shifting geopolitical dynamics of the Cold War U.S. nuclear umbrella, and the postcolonial politics of redress across the Pacific. His second book project opens a window into the lives of Iranians and Koreans in diaspora and the transnational circuits of change in multiple regions that intersected in their lives. This project explores the unexpected convergence of national histories, shifting immigration policies, and volatile geopolitical upheavals across West Asia, East Asia, and North America.

« Return to ABF Research Seminars

Site design by Webitects

© 2023 American Bar Foundation (
750 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611-4403
(312) 988-6500
Contact Us
Contact the Fellows
Media Contacts
Privacy policy
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in ABF publications are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Bar Foundation or the American Bar Association. The AMERICAN BAR FOUNDATION, ABF and related seal trademarks as used by the American Bar Foundation are owned by the American Bar Association and used under license.