Jay Timothy Dolmage. Disabled Upon Arrival: Eugenics, Immigration, and the Construction of Race and Disability. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2018. $24.94. pp. 177. ISBN 978‐0‐08142‐5467‐7.

Date01 December 2019
Published date01 December 2019
AuthorNorma Coto Smith
doi: 10.1002/wmh3.322
© 2019 Policy Studies Organization
Book Review
Jay Timothy Dolmage.Disabled Upon Arrival: Eugenics, Immigration, and the
Construction of Race and Disability. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2018.
$24.94. pp. 177. ISBN 97800814254677.
Dolmages 2018 book, Disabled upon Arrival: Eugenics, Immigration, and the Con-
struction of Race and Disability, uncovers the unromantic history of immigration. He
reminds us: We have been here before(p. 144). Dolmage fastens immigrationspast
to eugenics, racism, and discrimination, but before the reader speculates if this is
another lesson of history repeats itself,Dolmage makes it clear that these negative
ideologies have never gone away(p. 4). This book serves as a model text for rhet-
oricians. Rhetoricians and policy experts will understand how disability and race were
constructed in the past to then better examine and understand our current stigma-
tizing language. Only in making sense of the social condition surrounding immigra-
tion can rhetoricians begin to expose and reshape today's denigrating narratives.
Disabled upon Arrival is divided into four parts: Island, Pier, Explosion, and
Archive. In the first section, the Island, Dolmage studies the rhetorical space of Ellis
Island. Dolmage defines rhetoric as the strategic study of the circulation of power
through communication(p. 2), so he targets both how power moves through Ellis
Island and is framed by the space itself. As immigrants arrived, they were funneled
through Ellis Island while trained agents examined them for defects (eugenics in
action). Immigrants were marked LPC, likely to become a public charge,(p. 16)
for poor physique or feeblemindedness,a term broad enough to qualify many as
mentally inferior. If feeblemindedness did not fit, then the catchall moroncould
be used. A moron was a highfunctioning feebleminded individual capable of
'passing' as normal(p. 33). These physical (and emotional)stamps were noted by
the immigrants themselves, who feared deportation; the other immigrants, who
wondered if they were next; and the doctors, who were now tasked with further
inspection. Dolmage challenges the dominant cultural memory of Ellis Island
[that] celebrates the process as a rite of passage, arrival as celebratory(p. 20).
Dolmages research brings to light the outright racism and discrimination erased
from our immigration history. Like our current political language, The immigrant
was reframed as a menace, as a possible strain on resources, and as an undesirable
undercurrent in the national gene pool(p. 23). The backdrop to the activities of
Ellis Island is more poignant when Dolmage reminds us that at the same time
immigration peaked at Ellis Island, Warren Harding had risen to power with his
slogan Return to Normalcy,similar to Make America Great Again.

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