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Prejudice and paranoia: a comparative study of antisemitism and Sinophobia in turn-of-the-century Britain

Renshaw, D. (2016) Prejudice and paranoia: a comparative study of antisemitism and Sinophobia in turn-of-the-century Britain. Patterns of Prejudice, 50 (1). pp. 38-60. ISSN 1461-7331

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/0031322X.2015.1127646


Renshaw examines in comparative terms two of the most virulent manifestations of racial prejudice in early twentieth-century British society. The language of antisemitism and Sinophobia in the Edwardian period and the years preceding the First World War, the similarities and differences in the ways that these two forms of prejudice were articulated, and the overlap between them are analysed. Five strands of anti-Jewish and anti-Chinese sentiment and action are discussed. The first examines how international manifestations of antisemitism and Sinophobia, suspicions aimed at Jews and Chinese as transnational diasporic communities, and perceptions of these minorities, through Russian pogroms, the Boxer Rebellion in China and the post-Boer War economic situation in South Africa, were framed in narratives of victimhood and aggression. Second, the transnational and colonial circuits of racialized discourse and the relationship between periphery and metropole are considered, as are divergences in the articulation of anti-Jewish and anti-Chinese prejudice. The third strand investigates the use of the language of ‘invasion’, used by both the political right and the left in discussing Jewish and Chinese immigration and economic activity in Britain, with Chinese employment in British industries (in this period particularly as sailors on British ships) framed in the context of a demographic ‘Asiatic’ takeover of European societies. The fourth strand looks at the intersection of racial prejudice and sexual and social angst, the visceral association of immigrant groups with dirt and disease, and the sexual threat that racist and antisemitic literature attributed to Jews and Chinese. Finally, physical manifestations of antisemitism and Sinophobia in the period and the racial violence that occurred in Cardiff and Tredegar in 1911 will be described and placed in context. The article positions Edwardian antisemitism and Sinophobia as a transitory stage in the evolution of British racism: a bridge between the separate domestic and colonial forms of prejudice present in late Victorian discourse, and the new manifestations of racism located in British cities and ports, but aimed at non-white minorities, that emerged in the interwar period.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:74439
Publisher:Taylor and Francis


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