The Long Afterlife of Nikkei Wartime Incarceration reexamines the history of imprisonment of U.S. and Canadian citizens of Japanese descent during World War II. Karen M. Inouye explores how historical events can linger in individual and collective memory and then crystallize in powerful moments of political engagement. Drawing on interviews and untapped archival materials—regarding politicians Norman Mineta and Warren Furutani, sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani, and Canadian activists Art Miki and Mary Kitagawa, among others—Inouye considers the experiences of former wartime prisoners and their on-going involvement in large-scale educational and legislative efforts.
While many consider wartime imprisonment an isolated historical moment, Inouye shows how imprisonment and the suspension of rights have continued to impact political discourse and public policies in both the United States and Canada long after their supposed political and legal reversal. In particular, she attends to how activist groups can use the persistence of memory to engage empathetically with people across often profound cultural and political divides. This book addresses the mechanisms by which injustice can transform both its victims and its perpetrators, detailing the dangers of suspending rights during times of crisis as well as the opportunities for more empathetic agency.
About the author
Karen M. Inouye is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.
"The Long Afterlife of Nikkei Wartime Incarceration is a powerful meditation on how injustice catalyzes individual and collective transformation that also stretches our geographic and temporal understanding of the significance of wartime Japanese internment. While the story it tells is about a specific subject and community, it also provides a rich lesson about how the past is always changing."
—Shelley Lee, Oberlin College
"This is a moving and original account of how the trauma of wartime incarceration unexpectedly turned victims into passionate advocates for human rights and social change. By exploring how agency can emerge in the aftermath of injustice, Karen Inouye has written a model of interdisciplinary and transnational inquiry. This book will transform how we think about one of the darkest chapters of North American history."
—Christopher Lee, University of British Columbia