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The Cargo Rebellion: Those Who Chose Freedom on New Books in Asian Studies

New Books in Asian Studies

The Cargo Rebellion: Those Who Chose Freedom (PM Press, 2022) tells a true story of mutiny on the high seas in which four hundred indentured Chinese men overthrew their captor, the Connecticut businessman and slave trader Leslie Bryson, taking a stand against an exploitative global enterprise. The laborers learned that Bryson’s claimed destination of San Francisco was a lie to trick them into deadly servitude in the dreaded guano islands of Peru. Reaching a dramatic tipping point, the mutineers rose up and killed Bryson and several of the ship’s officers and then attempted to sail back to China.

This book’s centerpiece, a deft graphic account of the rebellion in the context of the “coolie trade” and the struggle to end traffic in human “cargo,” is supported by essays that spotlight the rebellion itself, how the subject of indentured Asian workers is being taught in classrooms, and how Chinese workers shaped the evolution of American music, particularly in the making of the first drum set. The Cargo Rebellion is a history from below that does justice to the memory of the hundreds of thousands of indentured workers and demonstrates how Asian migration to the Americas was rooted in slavery, colonialism, and the life-and-death struggle against servitude.

  • Jason Chang is associate professor of history and Asian and Asian American studies at the University of Connecticut, where he directs the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute.
  • Benjamin Barson is assistant professor of music at Bucknell University.
  • Alexis Dudden is professor of history at the University of Connecticut, specializing in modern Japan, modern Korea, and international history.
  • Kim Inthavong is a visual artist. She received her BA from the University of Madison–Wisconsin and is engaged in numerous arts projects.

Morteza Hajizadeh is a Ph.D. graduate in English from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His research interests are Cultural Studies; Critical Theory; Environmental History; Medieval (Intellectual) History; Gothic Studies; 18th and 19th Century British Literature. YouTube channel.