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Monday, February 11, 2013

Camacho review of Shah on Law, Race and Heteronormativity in the North American West


Julia Camacho, "A Novel Approach to Migration, Race, Intimacy, and Law," a review of Nayan Shah. Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West. American Crossroads Series. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011, on h-borderlands:

Here's the first two paragraphs:

In his second deftly researched and compelling book, Nayan Shah shines light on stories long obscured. Through descriptive writing and sharp analysis, he tells a fascinating wider tale of migration, intimacy, and survival in the North American West. Focusing on South Asian male migrants and the myriad intimate ties they forged with others, the book draws on a rich body of legal material in the United States and Canada, as well as elsewhere. It critically analyzes state records, using them to show how migrants were both tied to and living outside the limits of the nation-state. Shah complicates the historiography on migration and sexuality by putting in conversation literature on interracial ties and same-sex relations, which have rarely converged in scholarly inquiries. 
By centering on alternative socialities and intimacies, the book highlights how the middle-class white family became the dominant norm. Heteronormative policies and traditions in the United States and Canada have erased an array of social and domestic arrangements. Bringing them into sharp relief, Shah tackles sexuality in its messiness, recognizing the impossibility of categorizing sexual identities before the mid-twentieth century, and in some ways into the present. The book does away with the normal/pathological binary and destabilizes notions of the settled nuclear family and sexuality that have driven most scholarship on migration to date.
The rest of the review here.

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