Race and Place: Thinking through Immigrant (In)Equalities in 1970s Washington, D.C.

Endorsed by the OAH–Japanese Association for American Studies Japan Historians’ Collaborative Committee and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society (IEHS)

Friday, April 3, 2020, 8:00 AM - 9:30 AM

Type: Paper Session

Tags: Immigration and Internal Migration; Nationalism and Transnationalism; Race


This panel centers on thinking through racial (in)equality among immigrants in the United States within a particular space of socio-political importance to the U.S. nation-state: Washington D.C. As George Lipsitz has argued in his seminal work How Racism Takes Place, we must acknowledge the great degree to which this country’s literal terrain has been constructed by the white spatial imaginary, and take stock in the modes through which the black spatial imaginary attempts to resist these racializing practices in the face of inequality. Our panel builds on this conceptualization by taking Washington D.C. as the physical space in which we examine this dynamic of resistance and community formation being played out by various minoritized and racialized populations that have come to inhabit the area. That is to say, our panel asks, what political and socioeconomic (in)equalities emerge when we consider the relationship between racial formation and place in the nation’s capital for marginalized subjects of the U.S. nation-state? And, more poignantly, how are these larger racializing dynamics and fractures interrogated and resisted among those that they affect?

By interrogating systems of marginalization through African American and Asian American narratives, our panel seeks to understand how place is instrumentalized by these groups in order to survive and at times resist their racial and national oppression. And by bridging the many racialized populations inhabiting the larger Washington D.C. area, these papers together engage in histories of uncovering through the juxtaposition of national, institutional, and local archives. Patrick Chung uses the 1976 Koreagate Scandal to explore the impact of Cold War geopolitics on the lived experiences of Korean American immigrants in the D.C. metro area—specifically, his paper contrasts the reception and regulation of Korean Americans who either supported or denounced the U.S.-backed military dictatorship in South Korea. Andrew Friedman examines CLR James’s time at Federal City College, and how the intellectual space of the university and the city contributed to his engagement with notions of decolonization and black feminism. Ida Yalzadeh takes the two spaces of LaFayette Park and Bethesda, Maryland as springboards from which to understand the fractures in Iranian diasporic movements of resistance and racialization in the years after the Iranian Revolution and Hostage Crisis. Ultimately, these papers engage with (in)equality emergent from the relationship between race and space while also gesturing to the larger modes of transnational engagement of these historical actors by virtue of their paths of migration

Papers Presented

Decolonizing History: Late C. L. R. James in Home Rule–Era Washington, D.C.

In the 1970s Washington, D.C.’s home rule movement and other campaigns for black sovereignty amplified the cross-currents between antiracism and decolonization in the U.S. capital. In this context, a major figure in the history of decolonization and revolutionary theory in the twentieth century, the Trinidadian Marxist-Leninist intellectual C. L. R. James, arrived in Washington for his little-studied decade-long residence. There, he committed himself to wrestling through the paradoxes and necessities of an international moment when numerous activists and ordinary people were questioning the limits of political independence and pressing to ensure it was not an end point but a beginning. As the “star professor” of history, literature and philosophy at a key institution of decolonization in D.C.—the public, black-majority Federal City College—James set out to draft a new “history” and sense of the historical discipline, nourished in careful intersubjective relationships with black Washingtonians. The idea of James in the seventies is anomalous to his popular scholarly receptions. I argue here that his time in Washington captured a crucial phase in his intellectual labor, in the city’s decolonial history and in the larger effort to theorize decolonization into the seventies explicitly along the grain of critical history, and that it dovetailed with James’ reengagement with black feminism. By focusing on the “late James,” I plumb aspects of his output directly engaged with the idea of history as a tool and a discipline that a far-reaching project of complete decolonization and revolutionary change needed to grapple with and reinvent.

Presented By
Andrew Friedman, Haverford College

“Long Live a Sovereign and Self-Sufficient Iran”: LaFayette Park and Bethesda, Maryland, as Sites of Iranian Diasporic Racialization and Resistance, 1978–1988

The relationship between urban space and sites of protest marks a discussion in which many scholars such as Laura Pulido have shed light on the emergence of racialization and radical politics in 1960s and 1970s southern California. Building off of the relationship Pulido traces between the racialization embedded within the space of Los Angeles and the development of radical politics among various minoritized populations, this paper seeks to explore LaFayette Park, Washington D.C., and Bethesda, Maryland, as sites for two simultaneous processes after the Iranian Revolution: first, the practiced racialization and criminalization of Iranians in the United States, and, second, the articulation of communities of resistance within the diaspora. The postrevolutionary protests in LaFayette Park, I argue, occurred when the racialization of Iranians in America was the most salient in the 20th century. In particular, I examine the Iran Freedom Foundation, an anti-Khomeini political organization, and the Iranian Students Association, a radical Marxist organization, as they articulate a national and racial identity by claiming whiteness and brownness, respectively, through practices of protest in LaFayette Park and community formation in Bethesda. Through the use of archival documents from the Hoover Institution and the National Archives, this paper argues that these spaces in the Washington, D.C., area were crucial to the formation and factionalism of the Iranian diasporic community, in the face of external threat and criminalization by U.S. institutions and private citizens alike.

Presented By
Ida Yalzadeh, Brown University

“The Asian Great Gatsby” in the Capital: Tong-sun Park, the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, and the Geopolitics of Ethnic Lobbying in 1970s Washington, D.C.

This paper uses the 1976 Koreagate scandal to examine Korean American immigrant politics in 1970s Washington, D.C. Koreagate brought unprecedented attention to Korean Americans and raised questions about U.S. support for its longtime client, South Korea. Tong-sun Park, an agent for the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), was at the heart of the affair. Park established himself within elite Washington circles during the 1960s—his dinner parties at the plush George Town Club earned him a reputation as the “Asian Great Gatsby.” Park began to lobby members of Congress as part of a campaign overseen by the KCIA to bolster U.S. support for Korea’s military dictatorship. At the same time, KCIA agents intimidated and harassed Korean immigrants who spoke out against the Korean government. The targets of the KCIA often ran small businesses in ethnic enclaves around the city, far from the elegant settings where Park courted politicians and lobbyists. U.S. officials overlooked the suppression of Korean American antigovernment activism—it was only after Park’s illicit lobbying efforts became publicized that any action was taken. By contrasting the lived experiences and treatment of Korean American dissidents with those of Park, this paper highlights how U.S. foreign policy influenced the racialization and regulation of immigrant communities. It argues that Cold War geopolitics played a critical role in how certain immigrants experienced Washington, and the United States more broadly. While opening the colluders of power, and comfort, for those that promoted its interests abroad, the U.S. state marginalized those who did not.

Presented By
Patrick Chung, University of Maryland, College Park

Session Participants

Chair: Dara Orenstein, George Washington University
Dara Orenstein is an assistant professor of American Studies at George Washington University whose book about the history of warehousing in the United States is forthcoming in late 2019 from the University of Chicago Press.

Presenter: Patrick Chung, University of Maryland, College Park
Patrick Chung is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. He specializes in U.S. and global military history. His research interests also include the histories of the U.S. in the World, global capitalism, East Asia, and Asian America. His current research focuses on the relationship between the growth of the military-industrial complex in the United States and the industrialization of East Asia during the Cold War. He is working on a book (Making Korea Global) that traces the impact of the U.S. military on the “miraculous” growth of the South Korean economy. Chung earned his Ph.D. (2017) in History from Brown University and a B.A. (2010) in History from Penn State University. His work has been published in Diplomatic History and the Radical History Review.

Presenter: Andrew Friedman, Haverford College
Andrew Friedman is Associate Professor of History at Haverford College. He received his PhD in American Studies from Yale University in 2009. Friedman is the author of Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia (American Crossroads Series, University of California Press), winner of the Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize from The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations for 2014 and recipient of Honorable Mention for the Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians for 2015. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Journal of American History, Diplomatic History, Race and Class, The Journal of Urban History, Progress in Human Geography, Reviews in American History, The Baffler, and the New York Times, as well as the anthologies Making Suburbia: New Histories of Everyday America (University of Minnesota Press, 2015), Monument Lab: A Public Art and History Project (Temple University Press, 2019), and A Companion to U.S. Foreign Relations, Colonial Era to Present (Wiley-Blackwell, 2019). He has presented his work at numerous scholarly conferences, including the Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations Annual Meeting, the Urban History Association Biennial Conference, and the Society for American City and Regional Planning History National Conference, as well as in numerous invited lectures in university settings. At Haverford College, he won an Innovation in Teaching Prize in Spring 2011, and the Inaugural Chace/Parker Prize for Distinguished Teaching in Spring 2015.

Commentator: Moon-Ho Jung, University of Washington
Moon-Ho Jung is the Dio Richardson Professor of History and Adjunct Professor of American Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington, where he teaches courses on race, politics, and Asian American history. His book, Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), received the Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians and the History Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies. He is also the editor of The Rising Tide of Color: Race, State Violence, and Radical Movements across the Pacific (University of Washington Press, 2014). He is now completing a second monograph, currently titled The Unruly Pacific: Race and the Politics of Empire and Revolution, 1898-1941 (under contract with the University of California Press). Jung has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Asian American Studies (2009-2012) and the Journal of American History (2018-present), the board of contributing editors of Labor: Studies in Working-Class History (2006-2009), and the advisory board of Verge: Studies in Global Asias (2016-present). He has also served on the executive boards of the Association for Asian American Studies (2005-2007) and the Labor and Working-Class History Association (2009-2012).

Presenter: Ida Yalzadeh, Brown University
Ida Yalzadeh is a PhD Candidate in American Studies at Brown University. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in History. A past recipient of the Amos St. Germain Graduate Paper Prize from the Northeast Popular Culture Association, she has previously delivered conference presentations on stand-up comics Richard Pryor and Maz Jobrani, as well as Iranian student solidarity movements in the 1960s and 1970s and U.S. propaganda circulation and distribution during Iran’s Pahlavi era. Her research examines the Iranian diaspora through the context of histories of race and U.S. empire, and has been generously supported by funding from the Hoover Institution Library and Archives, the Iranian Association of Boston, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.