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Music and Politics in San FranciscoFrom the 1906 Quake to the Second World War$
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Leta Miller

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780520268913

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520268913.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 04 August 2021

The Politics of Race

The Politics of Race

Chinatown, Forbidden and Alluring

(p.63) 3 The Politics of Race
Music and Politics in San Francisco

Leta E. Miller

University of California Press

Chinatown was at once forbidden and irresistible, repulsive and alluring, its reputed danger more than counterbalanced by its attraction as an exotic Other: a little slice of the Orient in the heart of one of America's great cities. Never mind that San Francisco's Chinatown—the largest such community in the United States—with its lack of women and its reliance on providing services to the surrounding white community, hardly resembled Guangdong, much less China as a whole. White tourists flocked to the area to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of one of the world's oldest civilizations (and, incidentally, to gape at what they viewed as its present depravity)—providing, of course, that they could tour its streets under the protection of guides, many of whom hastened to show them its seamiest dives. Thanks to this reputation, numerous eyewitness reports of prequake Chinatown survive. These writings take on an uncanny and depressing similarity: a slovenly area filled with dazed opium smokers and gamblers, offering prostitution services to whites and Asians alike, emitting overpowering odors. And most of these travel reports take for granted the superiority of Western Civilization.

Keywords:   San Francisco, Chinatown, white tourists, prostitution

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