Book Shelf

Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the American West

Stranger Intimacy explores cross-racial intimacy and everyday life of migrants in cities and rural regions in the Western United States and the Canadian and Mexican borderlands. Tracing the labor, sexual and domestic experiences of South Asian migrants in the early 20th century, Shah examines more than a hundred cases of illicit sexual contact between South Asian, white, European immigrant, Chinese, and Native American males.

Connecting capitalism, policing practices, racialization, and the regulation of domesticity and sexuality, Nayan Shah scours court records, immigration bureaucracies, and news accounts for rich and vibrant stories of non-normative sociality among multi-racial transient migrants in the early twentieth century. Building a social tapestry, Stranger Intimacy depicts a diverse public world of belonging and the ways that ethics care, sensations and cultural frames create the grounds for both alliances and conflicts.

The book reveals how intimate acts and relationships are policed, surveilled and punished and the how local, national and international government operate together to create racial and sexual prohibitions that erupted in the breaking of tenancy contracts, destroy housing arrangements, and lead to forfeiture of lands and property,

Shah unsettles official attempts to pin down migrants, to fix them in place in nuclear family households, within proper heterosexual constraints. Charting the contested terrains of western North America a century ago, with their complex border crossings, couplings, and collectives, this book radically enhances understandings of estrangement and belonging today.