What if we were to export this particularly Los Angelean sense of imagined spatial belonging to the rest of the world? Rather than talk about how rooted the citizens of Los Angeles are to the physical space of the city, we could instead talk about how other metropolitan sites in the United States, North America, and perhaps around the world are actually more like Los Angeles in this aspect. Los Angeles, in other words, might not be the exception but the rule if we understand the history of the last two centuries as dominated by migration. First of all, we need to think about how we narrate migration. The actual movement of human bodies from one point to another has no inherent meaning, but is given meaning through the classifications of those movements. […] My purpose is not to erase all distinctions between different forms of movement and migration, but to highlight how we categorize such differences. We should give more thought to the origins of our categories, and whether we should reclassify movements to achieve other political purposes. One of the most important benefits for American studies in placing migration to and from the Americas at the center of our scholarship, it seems to me, is to escape nationalism as our rationale.[…]
If we saw the world through the eyes of my great-grandmother, how different would it look? Lee Choi Yee was in her eighties when she left China in 1965. She had already been entwined in a network of family labor migration that had connected her home village in Guangdong province with Sydney, Australia, and Honolulu, Hawai’i, and all up and down the west coast of North America for almost a century. […]
To see the world through my great-grandmother’s eyes is to see a world both intimate and local—a farm, a village, your children and husband’s relatives around you—as well as vast and linked to far-flung places.
- “Los Angeles and American Studies in a Pacific World of Migrations.” Henry Yu, American Quarterly Vol 56, No 3. Sep 2004.