I have visited the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento several times. Each time, I pay for the tickets, turn the corner, and am immersed in a dark, cavernous space highlighted by a diorama of Chinese railroad workers against a scenic backdrop. The three-dimensional figures of Chinese persons are frozen in acts of hard manual labor; at least one is suspended precariously on the side of a fake mountaintop. This is the grand entrée into the museum. The use of the diorama—long a staple of natural history museums—stages the naturalist aesthetics of this scene: its beauty shadowed or perhaps heightened by the history lesson it imparts, a reminder of the labor exploitation and racialized logics on which the transcontinental railroad rests. Along with all the other museum visitors, I move on to the large warehouse space that is an encomium to the...
Forget Historical Recovery?! Toward a Critique of Asian American Common Sense
MARK C. JERNG is professor of English at the University of California, Davis, and author of two books: Claiming Others: Transracial Adoption and National Belonging (2010) and Racial Worldmaking: The Power of Popular Fiction (2018).
Mark C. Jerng; Forget Historical Recovery?! Toward a Critique of Asian American Common Sense. Novel 1 May 2019; 52 (1): 150–155. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-7330308
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