During the 1880s San Francisco bohemians began to portray Chinatown as a place in which the forces of marginalization allowed a premodern authenticity to fl ourish. Their depictions of Chinatown resonated with a growing number of tourists. Historians have examined these developments, but few have considered the ways in which touristic interest in "authentic Chinatown" created new opportunities for entrepreneurial activity and social action. As this article argues, white and Chinese San Franciscans seized these opportunities. By the 1890s white tour guides had begun to stage scenes of depravity and present them as "authentic." Some Chinese San Franciscans performed within these scenes; others responded to tourists with practiced indifference, contempt, or hostility. A loose coalition of Chinatown merchants pursued a third strategy. They sought to rechannel touristic interest by locating Chinatown's authenticity within its exotic architecture, theatrical performances, curios, and cuisine. In doing so, they affi rmed perceptions of Chinese American "otherness."

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