Consuming Labor: Migration and Mobility of Chinese Restaurant Workers in New York City, 1894-1965


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


American Studies


This dissertation examines Chinese restaurants as a site of chain migration, labor, and capital accumulation during the period of Chinese Exclusion. It argues that the Chinese responded to the legal and cultural conditions under Chinese Exclusion by designing a business model based on small family restaurants that sustained a transnational family economic structure. Exploiting a loophole in the exclusion law, Chinese laborers gained special immigration privileges by first investing in and working for Chinese restaurants. They then established a flurry of small restaurants to give as many Chinese as possible the right to visit China or sponsor relatives to the United States. This business model secured both labor and capital for expanding the Chinese restaurant industry.