Asian Americans and the Problem of Empire’s Allure

February 23, -
Speaker(s): Dr. Chris Suh
Drawing on his recent book, The Allure of Empire: American Encounters with Asians in the Age of Transpacific Expansion and Exclusion (Oxford University Press, 2023), Chris Suh will explain how "progressive" imperialism thwarted radical attempts at decolonization and shaped Asian American political behavior in the first half of the 20th century. In addition to suppressing anti-colonial movements in Asia and the United States, "progressive" imperialists maintained racial inequality by successfully convincing Asian and Asian American elites that they could secure their self-interests without dismantling the imperial world order. The talk will illustrate how, in pursuit of sovereignty, citizenship, and property rights, Asian and Asian American elites often adapted to the white imperial expectations of nonwhite peoples' "proper" behavior and, in some cases, adopted "progressive" imperialism as their own.

Chris Suh is Assistant Professor of History at Emory University, where he teaches Asian American history and US-East Asia relations. He has recently published his first book, The Allure of Empire: American Encounters with Asians in the Age of Transpacific Expansion and Exclusion, with Oxford University Press, and his articles have appeared in the Journal of American History and the Pacific Historical Review. His research has been highlighted by NPR, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Time, and Vanity Fair.

During his time at Emory, Suh has won multiple awards for his research, teaching, and service, including the Emory College Award for Academic Advising and the Laura Jones Hardman Award for Excellence in Service to the Emory Community for his work with Asian American students on campus. For the 2023-2024 academic year, he is a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader fellow at the Institute for Citizens & Scholars (formerly known as the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation).

Asian American and Diaspora Studies


Asian Pacific Studies Institute (APSI); History


Uzair, Maira