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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Carceral Entanglements: Interrogating Gendered Public Memories of Japanese American World War II Incarceration

  • Author(s): Yamashita, Wendsor Sumie
  • Advisor(s): Hong, Kyungwon
  • et al.

This dissertation examines how death, generationality, and normativity operate intimately to legitimize Japanese American histories via their public memorializations. Japanese American incarceration has been popularly narrated as an exceptional moment in history that is resolved by redress. However, my work considers how the historical moment of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, in particular the passing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, has profoundly shaped race relations in the contemporary moment. Specifically, how the carceral functions to control and punish different groups of color at different historical moments. I explore how Japanese American World War II incarceration is remembered in a post-redress era wherein memories of incarceration both replicate and challenge settler colonialism and the prison industrial complex. Conducting ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, archival research, and cultural analysis I argue that Japanese Americans legitimize their history and gain visibility by strategically constructing narratives of ideal citizen-subjects that revolve around their performances of proper gendered and heteronormative behavior through the concept of racial resolution. My dissertation demonstrates that the study of Asian American racialization in relation to other groups of color (like Blackness and Indigeneity) is needed to effectively address and challenge the prison industrial complex and settler colonialism.

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