School of Policy Studies

School of Policy Studies
School of Policy Studies

Queen's Contagion Cultures Lecture Series

Tuesday February 2, 2021


The Diseased Horde: Anti-Asian Racism from the 19th Century to COVID-19

Ali Na, Assistant Professor in the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University

Anti-Asian discourses during COVID-19 are nothing new. Rather, they are media representations that have been repeated in the US and Canada since at least the 19th Century. Through these continually reemerging formations, Asians and Asian North Americans have been depicted as a diseased horde. Collapsing ethnicity and nationality, these images have sutured animality and impurity onto Asianness. Just as these racist imaginings have been “naturalized” through dominant cultural code, they have also been mobilized to spread hate through a public fear of contamination. From 19th Century print to 20th Century film and 21st Century digital culture, Anti-Asian sentiments have been fomented through eating taboos, charges of sexual aberration, and exotification. Trope frames North American culture, making new discourses appear true for both conservative and liberal members of society alike. Asians “as vectors of disease” resonates across society, creating the ideal conditions for both structural and interpersonal exclusions.