The Immigration Act of 1917’s Borges-esque List

I’ve been able to make good progress this week on my article. Currently, I’m looking at the last section of the article that considers the intersection of white supremacy with racist (and racializing) legislation. The Immigration Act of 1917 is perhaps most famous for the creation of the Asiatic Barred Zone, yet I’m interested in the way the Immigration Act set up a disparate idea of rightful immigration that was based not simply on race but on speech acts and mental ability. It included, idiots, epileptics, imbeciles, persons of constitutional psychopathic inferiority, vagrants, professional beggars, polygamists, and anarchists.

For my work I’m interested in how anarchism is positioned. As the Act states, anarchists are

persons who believe in or advocate the overthrow by force or violence of the Government of the United States, or of all forms of law, or disbelieve in or are opposed to organized government, or who advocate the assassination of public officials, or who advocate or teach unlawful destruction of property; person who are members of or affiliated with any organization entertaining and teaching disbelief in or opposition to organized government, or who advocate or teach the duty, necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or killing of any officer or officers, either of specific individuals or of officers generally of the government of the United States or of any other organized government, because of his or their official character, or who advocate or teach the unlawful destruction of property.

Here, we see how anarchism is federally legislated and defined. It is figured not simply as the act of destruction of property or overthrowing the government but speaking of doing such or even believing in the overthrow by force or violence. I am also curious how force or violence is being defined in this statement. One can imagine but it is a rather broad idea of force being used here that could be used to enforce a number of ideas of property action. I am still considering how to place this in my article but as the title of this blog post states, the broad inclusion of racial identity, to mental health, to seditious speech acts as a totalizing group is fascinating in its Borges like listing scheme.


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