From Evacuation and Relocation to Concentration and Redress: Historiographical Challenges for Japanese American Studies

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2014-09-26
Authors
Ando, Kelley
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History
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
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Fifty-four years have passed since Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, the declaration that authorized Secretary of War Henry Stimson and General John DeWitt to exclude individuals from zones the Department of War considered militarily sensitive. As a result, over 110,000 aliens and citizens of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast of the United States were removed from their homes in restricted zones to areas prescribed by the Department of War. Since 19 February 1942, books, articles, and government documents have been published on the subject of the Japanese experience in the United States during World War II, a discussion whose topics range from first-hand accounts of camp life to interpretations of government policies and actions. Although each element of the Japanese American wartime experience, from the issei enemy aliens to the nisei members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, holds a unique place in history, the subject of motivations for evacuation and relocation presents a point of argument for legal, political, and social historians. Among the storytellers of the decision to relocate, Roger Daniels and Page Smith provide an illuminating contrast, as both historians articulate opposing arguments and analyses. Daniels, a professor of American history at the University of Cincinnati, is considered by a number of his peers to be an expert in the field of Japanese American history and immigration studies. Furthermore, Daniels' extensive research in government archives and documents has allowed him to claim authority on the findings of government policies towards minority groups. Page Smith, professor of American history, is as prolific as Daniels; however, Democracy on Trial stands as his solitary publication on the Japanese wartime experience. While Smith's works range from Rediscovering Christianity to The Rise of Industrial America and Religious Origins of the American Revolution, he is not considered an expert of Japanese American studies. Moreover, Democracy on Trial hardly garners respect from scholars. Yet, Smith contributes to the study of the relocation experience by shedding light upon pre-war Japanese in the United States which Daniels and his predecessors fail to acknowledge, reflecting current trends in the field of Japanese American studies.
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iii, 42 pages
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