Seattle from the Margins
Exclusion, Erasure, and the Making of a Pacific Coast City
- PUBLISHED: December 2022
- SUBJECT LISTING: Pacific Northwest / History, Asian American Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 272 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 1 color illus, 27 b&w illus., 3 maps
- SERIES: Emil and Kathleen Sick Book Series in Western History and Biography
- ISBN: 9780295751863
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
From the origins of the city in the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of World War II, Seattle's urban workforce consisted overwhelmingly of migrant laborers who powered the seasonal, extractive economy of the Pacific Northwest. Though the city benefitted from this mobile labor force—consisting largely of Indigenous peoples and Asian migrants—municipal authorities, elites, and reformers continually depicted these workers and the spaces they inhabited as troublesome and as impediments to urban progress. Today the physical landscape bears little evidence of their historical presence in the city.
Tracing histories from unheralded sites such as labor camps, lumber towns, lodging houses, and so-called slums, Seattle from the Margins shows how migrant laborers worked alongside each other, competed over jobs, and forged unexpected alliances within the marine and coastal spaces of the Puget Sound. By uncovering the historical presence of marginalized groups and asserting their significance in the development of the city, Megan Asaka offers a deeper understanding of Seattle's complex past.
Seattle from the Margins was made possible in part by a grant from 4Culture’s Heritage Program.
Authors & Contributors
Megan Asaka is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Riverside.
One of the strengths of Asaka’s book is the way it writes “history from below,” digging up information about ordinary, struggling, marginalized people who don’t leave records or interest standard historians. The result is a book that is full of insights, characters, and new story lines...This brave book is well-written and bracing.- Post Alley
Asaka deftly foregrounds the experiences of transient and surveilled workers to tell the story of Seattle’s intercultural commerce and communities. [Her] tour de force offers lessons and strategies for local mobilization today.- The Stranger
Seattle has always been a working city, and Megan Asaka's compelling account of labor, race, and migration in and around the Northwest's largest city gives us new ways of seeing and understanding this fact. Caught up in imperial networks, systems of segregation, and the logics of racial capitalism, the workers of Seattle both transformed and were transformed by their encounters with the city and surrounding spaces. A must-read for anyone interested in the region's history or in the intersections between labor and race more generally.- Coll Thrush, author Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place
Asaka asks us to take a fresh look at Seattle to see the migratory workers whose labor helped to build the segregated urban landscape they lived within. Rich with detail and insight, Seattle from the Margins captures the overlapping forces of race, migration, labor, and colonialism in the making of this Pacific hub.- Beth Lew-Williams, author of The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America
Imaginatively reveals Seattle’s vibrant multi-racial creators—the Indigenous people and Asian migrants—who toiled and struggled in the city’s first century and whose forgotten intimacies and legacies expose the sediments of racial segregation.”- Nayan Shah, author of Stranger Intimacy and Contagious Divides
Megan Asaka's deeply researched and brilliantly argued history reveals how Asian and Indigenous workers built the Emerald City—and how their labors and legacies were all but erased in the name of so-called progress.- Matthew Klingle, author of Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle
A rare comparative and relational history of race and migration in the Puget Sound area. Its rigorous examination of Native, Chinese, and Japanese experiences and their relationship to a larger history of racial contestation and displacement is truly significant.- Shelley Lee, author of Claiming the Oriental Gateway: Prewar Seattle and Japanese America