'You Will See My Family Became so American': Race, Citizenship, and the Visual Archive
in Law and the Visual: Representations, Technologies, and Critique (ed. Desmond Manderson), 2018
25 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2018 Last revised: 8 May 2019
Date Written: March 8, 2018
In 1932, the United States government sought to cancel the citizenship of Dinshah Ghadiali, an immigrant from India, alleging that Ghadiali “by reason of his not being a free white person or a person of African nativity or descent is, and was, ineligible racially for naturalization.” Ghadiali was one of dozens of Indian immigrants targeted for denaturalization in the wake of United States v. Thind (1923), in which the Supreme Court declared that “Hindus,” though capable of cultural assimilation, would remain visually unassimilable. At his denaturalization trial, Ghadiali submitted into evidence a series of photographs, assuring the judge, “You will see my family became so American.” How do these photographs purport to show that Ghadiali and his family had become “so American”? In this essay, through a through a close reading of Ghadiali’s photography, I explore a tension between the visualization of race—a practice at once institutionalized by law and inextricably bound with the medium of photography—and the performance of national belonging.
Keywords: Immigration, immigration law, citizenship, photography, race, racism, india, history, visual, culture, humanities
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