“The white man’s burden” : rhetorical constructions of race and identity in U.S. naturalization cases from India, 1914-1926



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This report examines the rhetorical strategies employed in several judicial cases during the 1920s in which the U.S. government contested the racial eligibility of Hindus for naturalization under a law providing that only “white persons” were eligible for naturalization. Through a close examination of the arguments and evidence in the cases, the report argues that the decisions in the cases were inextricably linked to the the conflict between the British and a rising Hindu nationalism movement in the struggle for Indian independence during the period surrounding World War I, and thereby highlight the significance of a wide variety of group identities to racial identification as the courts in the cases negotiated the boundaries of America’s global identity through the lens of race.