Migrants from the Asia-Pacific region have historically confronted various discriminatory and exclusionary practices in the Americas. In the nineteenth century, significant numbers of free or liberated Chinese migrants settled in the United States, British Columbia, Cuba, and Mexico, among others, and founded or joined ethnic-based associations, guilds, and societies. Members of these organizations benefited from mutual aid, protection, and certain socio-economic advantages in often hostile foreign societies. Two of the most prominent types of organization were the Chinese Benevolent Associations and the Chinese secret societies. While the former focused on the control of trans-pacific trade and regional businesses, the latter became involved in illegal ventures as a means of controlling parts of the informal economy. These secret societies in the Americas trace their origins to Southern Chinese Hongmen societies, later known as triads, and functioned as sworn brotherhood associations or fraternal collectives, typically by offering those lacking access to upper class associations collective protection and support. Deeply entrenched in traditions of secrecy, personal loyalty and mutual dependence, several of these associations also contributed to the progress of the Chinese communities in the Americas and transcended national borders with their global networks. Based on recent archival research, this talk investigates some of these secret societies in the Americas during this period and explores to what extent their networks can be understood as a mechanism to cope with exclusion and discrimination.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Albert Manke, PhD, is a researcher at the Department of Contemporary History and at the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies of Osnabrück University. His areas of expertise are the history of power asymmetries, exclusion, and resistance in Latin America, the history of transpacific migration and New Cold War History. After working at the Global South Studies Center of the University of Cologne and at Bielefeld University’s Center for Inter-American Studies, he became the first Tandem Fellow in the History of Migration at the University of California, Berkeley, as a fellow of the German Historical Institute Washington’s Pacific Office. From 2019 to 2022, he became a research fellow at that same institution as a member of the Max Weber Foundation’s collaborative research project “Knowledge Unbound.” His most recent book is Coping with Discrimination and Exclusion: Experiences of Free Chinese Migrants in the Americas in a Transregional and Diachronic Perspective (2021).
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