Mandarin Brazil
Race, Representation, and Memory
Ana Paulina Lee


Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: Circumoceanic Memory: Chinese Racialization in Brazilian Perspective
chapter abstract

This chapter lays out the book's main theoretical framework, circumoceanic memory, and discusses the book's methodology for compiling an archive of Chinese racialization. It contextualizes Chinese racialization within the history of slavery's racial regimes. Drawing on critical race and cultural memory studies, it explores how Chinese racialization overlaps with other processes of racialization such as whiteness and blackness. It disentangles racial and eugenic ideology from liberal ideology to examine how discussions about race, free labor, and liberty became coterminous in defining Brazilian national identity as an aspect of an emerging global, racialized national consciousness.

1 Brazil's Oriental Past and Future
chapter abstract

This chapter investigates the Portuguese conceptual framework regarding China and shows how these perceptions changed during Brazil's colonial period in relation to the trade in Oriental material goods and Asian labor. Beginning in the sixteenth century, the Portuguese empire established a global trade route that linked the economies and cultures of Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. This chapter examines multilateral economic and political interests as well as mutual acts of cultural appropriation such as those that occurred in the trade in porcelain, export porcelain, and chinoiserie decor. It explores how the trade in foreign luxury items circulated images and motifs about Asia and Europe to Asian and European consumers alike. This chapter argues that the global trade in foreign luxury goods that also trafficked in human labor played a critical role in shaping racialized ideas about exploitable and disposable labor.

2 Emancipation to Immigration
chapter abstract

This chapter analyzes the developments that led Chinese laborers to Brazil, through analyzing documents written by late Qing dynasty diplomats and officials who traveled to Brazil to open up Chinese immigration routes. Qing officials used a word for immigration that had a synonymous meaning with colonization (yizhi). Brazil, to them, presented a viable option for both due to its vast territory and inclusive citizenship laws. The chapter discusses late Qing officials' concerns in opening immigration and trade routes between China and Brazil in relation to Brazilian abolitionists' preoccupations with emancipation, national independence, and the new nation's desire to whiten its racial makeup. This chapter also explores the cultural work that illustrations about Qing dynasty officials served, including caricatures of mandarins that appeared in abolitionist print journals.

3 Performing Yellowface and Chinese Labor
chapter abstract

This chapter examines fin-de-siècle Rio de Janeiro vaudeville and the carnivalesque constructions of yellowface performance. Arthur Azevedo, arguably the most renowned playwright in Brazilian theatrical history, declared that theater was not purely about entertainment; it was also a critical site to deliberate citizenship and nation. Azevedo used the genre of vaudeville to turn Rio de Janeiro into a topsy-turvy world where race, gender, and sexuality were in flux. This chapter maps instances in which the fictional portrayals of mandarins transposed the visits of late Qing officials. These plays used satire as a form of political contestation aimed at divesting from Chinese immigration, which the playwrights portrayed as a new mode of labor colonization. The stage conveyed fears about the perceived threat that Chinese labor would usher in a new era of unfree "yellow" labor and thus impede the road to racial whitening, modernity, abolition, and national independence.

4 The Chinese Question in Brazil
chapter abstract

This chapter brings together a series of wandering and fragmentary depictions of Chinese laborers in the writings of Machado de Assis and Eça de Queiroz. The vast majority of these chronicles have not been published or translated into English or studied within the context of abolition and Chinese immigration. This chapter provides a comparative reading of these chronicles and essays, paying particular attention to the authors' references to late Qing dynasty officials and Chinese migrants, in order to discuss how Brazilian authors angled literary production to enter into the global Chinese question debate. The authors' writings allow us to observe how shifting perceptions of race influenced new modes of Chinese racialization in Brazil.

5 Between Diplomacy and Fiction
chapter abstract

This chapter brings together a set of diplomatic and fictional writings by the author/diplomats Eça de Queiroz, Aluísio Azevedo, and Luis Guimarães Filho. While these authors are celebrated for their contributions to Luso-Brazilian letters, they also all served as diplomats for Portugal or Brazil and participated in debates on Chinese and Japanese immigration. I discuss the constitutive role that their diplomatic poetics played in shaping immigration policy and international relations between Brazil, China, and Japan.

6 The Yellow Peril in Brazilian Popular Music
chapter abstract

Brazilian popular music production functions as a specific regime of representation and declaration, thereby sharing social, political, and economic realities and playing a critical role in staging new imaginaries of citizenship. Twentieth-century constructions of Chineseness in Brazilian popular music reformulated the pseudoscience of eugenics through creating ideas about "constructive" or "degenerative" miscegenation. Songs about racial mixing with the Chinese were always tied to larger concerns about Brazil's geopolitical alliances during World War II or economic alignments. Lyrics and melodies about the Chinese negotiated ideas about Brazilian national identity and mestiço nationalism wherein we can observe how music production that depicted Chinese sexuality and gender in relation to the figure of the mulata are bound to a Brazilian collective memory of slavery and sexual violence, even if the origins of that past are disremembered in national memory.

Conclusion: Imaginative Geographies of Brazil and China
chapter abstract

This chapter ties together the main themes of the book regarding Sino-Portuguese trade, the African slave trade, Chinese (Asiatic labor), and Brazilian racial democracy in a twentieth-century context. It analyzes how sociologist Gilberto Freyre (1900–1987) appropriated the imperialist spatial-conceptual framework of the Orient to advance the Brazilian national myth of racial democracy as a way of contesting white supremacist ideology spreading around the world in places like the United States, Europe, and South Africa. Finally, it addresses the topic of the Chinese in Brazil today and concludes with contemporary news stories about the continuing forms of unfree and enslaved Chinese labor in Brazil to show the existence of ongoing modes of Chinese racialization that recapitulate old ideas and clichés in new settings.