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The Lives of Chang and EngSiam's Twins in Nineteenth-Century America$
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Joseph Andrew Orser

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781469618302

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469618326.001.0001

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Asiatic Americans

Asiatic Americans

(p.105) Chapter Four Asiatic Americans
The Lives of Chang and Eng

Joseph Andrew Orser

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter explores how conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker, more famously known as the “Siamese twins,” negotiated their way through shifting identities of “Asian” and “American” in the United States during the late 1840s and the 1850s. It first considers the changes in the lives of Chang and Eng as family men amid debates over abolitionism, sectionalism, and nativism that dominated the public discourse at the time, along with developments that served to reemphasize the twins' “Asianness” in comparison to the Chinese in the United States and their “Americanness” in relation to sectionalism. It then examines representations of the twins' domestic life both in Siam and in North Carolina to get a sense for where they had been and where they were in the late 1840s. It also discusses the international forces that shaped the way Americans understood Chang and Eng in the early 1850s by focusing on the twins' story as part of a royal Siamese embassy to Vietnam as well as the Taiping Rebellion in China. Finally, the chapter discusses the twins' experience as slaveholders in relation to race, class, masculinity, and foreignness.

Keywords:   conjoined twins, Chang and Eng Bunker, Siamese twins, Chang and Eng, United States, abolitionism, sectionalism, nativism, Asianness, Americanness

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