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This paper explores the vexed relationship between legal form and personhood that arises in the context of Indian immigration and naturalization in the early twentieth century. In 1932, Dinshah P. Ghadiali received notice that the government was seeking to cancel his citizenship on grounds of “racial ineligibility.” In his self-published writing about the trial, Ghadiali wondered whether he been singled out for persecution by professional rivals. In fact, he had been caught in a larger campaign to denaturalize citizens of Indian origin after the Supreme Court, in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923), determined that “Hindus” were racially ineligible for citizenship. I offer a reading of Ghadiali’s trial to explore the tension between rhetorical colorblindness, as an emergent idiom for equality, and the perceptible “common sense” of racial difference. I focus my reading on the photographs Ghadiali submitted to the Court to explore the imbrications of bodies and discipline, essence and performance in the context of immigrant naturalization.


2013 Law and Humanities Junior Scholar Workshop alternate selection.