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The Japanese American Wartime Incarceration: Examining the Scope of Racial Trauma



Ten weeks after the 1941 Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the U.S. government authorized the removal 110,000 Japanese American men, women, and children from their homes in Western portions of the country and began moving them to incarceration camps in desolate areas of the United States. The mass incarceration was portrayed as necessary to protect the country from potential acts of espionage or sabotage that might be committed by someone of Japanese ancestry. However, an extensive government review initiated in 1980 found no evidence of military necessity to support the removal decision and concluded that the incarceration was a grave injustice fueled by racism and war hysteria. The Japanese American wartime experience represents a powerful case example of historically based racial trauma. This article examines the consequences of the incarceration for Japanese Americans during and after their unjust imprisonment, their coping responses and healing strategies, as well as the impacts of receiving governmental redress more than four decades after the war’s end. Examination of this specific trauma provides a perspective for under- standing the long-term, radiating effects of racial trauma and healing over a broad arc of time and across social contexts. Current relevance of the Japanese American incarceration and its implications for the field of psychology are discussed.
The Japanese American Wartime Incarceration: Examining the
Scope of Racial Trauma
Donna K. Nagata,
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Jacqueline H. J. Kim, and
Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles
Kaidi Wu
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Ten weeks after the 1941 Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the U.S. government
authorized the removal of more than 110,000 Japanese American men, women, and children from
their homes in Western portions of the country to incarceration camps in desolate areas of the
United States. The mass incarceration was portrayed as necessary to protect the country from
potential acts of espionage or sabotage that might be committed by someone of Japanese ancestry.
However, an extensive government review initiated in 1980 found no evidence of military
necessity to support the removal decision and concluded that the incarceration was a grave
injustice fueled by racism and war hysteria. The Japanese American wartime experience represents
a powerful case example of race-based historical trauma. This article describes the consequences
of the incarceration for Japanese Americans during and after their unjust imprisonment, their
coping responses and healing strategies, as well as the impacts of receiving governmental redress
more than four decades after the war’s end. Examination of this specific event provides a
perspective for understanding the long-term, radiating effects of racial trauma and the process of
healing, over a broad arc of time and across social contexts. Current relevance of the Japanese
American incarceration and implications for the field of psychology are discussed.
Japanese American; incarceration; internment; trauma; racism
History and racial trauma are inextricably linked. Given the complex multicultural and
multiracial nature of contemporary society, an understanding of the history of racism and its
impacts on communities of color is essential. Research on specific historical and race-based
traumas can offer insights into these impacts and their long-range consequences. The present
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Donna K. Nagata, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan,
530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.
This is a post-print version of the article that has been accepted for a 2019 special issue of the American Psychologist titled, “Racial
Trauma: Theory, Research, and Healing.” Lillian Comas-Díaz, Gordon Nagayama Hall, Helen Neville, and Anne E. Kazak served as
editors of the special issue.
HHS Public Access
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Published in final edited form as:
Am Psychol
. 2019 January ; 74(1): 36–48. doi:10.1037/amp0000303.
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paper describes the World War II (WWII) Japanese American incarceration, a case example
of racial trauma that occurred over 75 years ago, to provide a perspective on the scope of
racial trauma and healing over a broad arc of time and across changing social contexts.
Historical Background
On February 19, 1942, 10 weeks after the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii,
President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 and authorized the removal of all
persons of Japanese ancestry from the western United States. More than 110,000 Japanese
Americans were labeled as “potentially disloyal”; ordered to leave their homes, careers, and
communities; and forced to live in isolated camps located in interior deserts and
swamplands. They lived imprisoned behind barbed wire, watched by armed guards, for an
average of two to four years. No charges were ever brought before the Japanese Americans,
nor were they given the opportunity for a review. Included under the removal order were
three generations: first-generation Japanese immigrants (
), U.S.-born second-generation
Japanese Americans (
), and their third-generation offspring (
; see Figure 1 for
generational terms).
Neither citizenship nor age mattered: two thirds of those imprisoned were U.S. citizens by
birth (U.S. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians [USCWRIC],
1997), including infants and young children. Instead, Japanese heritage alone was the basis
for imprisonment: Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, the Commanding General for West
Coast security, argued “The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and
third generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship,
have become “Americanized,” the racial strains are undiluted … It, therefore, follows that
along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at
large today” (USCWRIC, 1997, p. 6).
The injustice of framing the incarceration as a military necessity is striking given that, prior
to Roosevelt’s issuance of E.O. 9066, the FBI, members of the Naval Intelligence, and Army
General Staff did not see the need for mass removal and incarceration as there was no
evidence of espionage or sabotage committed by a Japanese American citizen or resident
Japanese alien on the West Coast (USCWRIC, 1997). In addition, although proximity to
Japan was presented as the reason for removing Japanese Americans from the West Coast,
no mass incarceration was implemented in Hawaii, which was significantly closer to Japan,
and neither German nor Italian Americans were subjected to mass incarceration even though
the United States was also at war with Germany and Italy. Racially charged post-Pearl
Harbor fears and the economic self-interests of agricultural groups who would profit by
taking over lands farmed by Japanese Americans played important roles in the calls for
removal (Okihiro & Drummond, 1991). Later investigations would conclude that the
incarceration decision was not a justified military necessity but was instead shaped by “race
prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership” (USCWRIC, 1997, p. xi)
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The Incarceration as Trauma
Japanese Americans carried psychological burdens and an undeserved stigma from the
unjust imprisonment long after the war’s end. The incarceration remained “the mournful
reference point from which these Americans describe changes in their communities, their
personal lives, their aspirations” (USCWRIC, 1997, p. 301). Its powerful impacts reflect
four important forms of trauma: individual, race-based, historical, and cultural. Individual
and race-based traumas occurred at the time of incarceration, while the historical and
cultural traumas emerged after the war ended at an intergenerational level. At the individual
level, the suspicions of disloyalty from non-Japanese and their own government, sudden
uprooting and imprisonment without wrongdoing, and uncertainty about their future
shattered Japanese Americans’ assumptive world, sense of self, and well-being (Janoff-
Bulman, 1992). It is important that the incarceration also represented a powerful race-based
trauma (Bryant-Davis, 2007). Japanese Americans were deliberately targeted for
discriminatory treatment motivated by racial stereotypes, while German and Italian
Americans were not. Decades of anti-Asian racism driven by perceptions of Japanese as
untrustworthy and unassimilable foreigners preceded the war and resulted in laws restricting
immigration, miscegenation, rights to citizenship, and land ownership (Daniels, 1988). This
exclusion of Japanese Americans from mainstream society paved the way for a swift
response following Pearl Harbor, with little objection from others. Poll data from the spring
of 1942 showed that a majority of Americans favored removal (USCWRIC, 1997). Chinese
Americans, who supported the incarceration given the history of conflict between China and
Japan, helped spread the belief that Japanese Americans were untrustworthy and wore “I am
Chinese” buttons (Wong, 2005). At the same time, nearly all Black and Jewish community
organizations and civil liberties groups remained silent (Greenberg, 1995).
Two additional forms of trauma, historical and cultural, surfaced after the incarceration
ended and are associated with long-term intergenerational impacts. Historical trauma has
been defined as a trauma that is shared by a group of people and has impacts that span across
multiple generations (Mohatt, Thompson, Thai, & Tebes, 2014). Consistent with this,
evidence points to extended incarceration impacts that affected subsequent generations of
Japanese Americans (Nagata, Kim, & Nguyen, 2015). Cultural trauma can be seen as a more
specific manifestation of historical trauma. While historical trauma concerns
intergenerational impacts broadly, cultural trauma focuses on the way in which a shared
traumatic event impacts group consciousness and identity. It is defined as occurring “when
members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a traumatic event that leaves
indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking memories forever and changing
their future identity” (Alexander, 2004, p. 1). This article highlights both the immediate
individual and race-based incarceration traumas experienced by the unjustly imprisoned
Issei and Nisei Japanese Americans, as well as the long-term historical and cultural traumas
experienced by their Sansei children and Yonsei grandchildren born after the war.
Incarceration Stressors and Coping
To comprehend the extent of incarceration-related traumas, it is important to understand the
range of stressors that were involved. The psychological stress of helplessness and
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uncertainty began within 24 hours of the Pearl Harbor attack. Approximately 1,500 Issei
immigrant community leaders, deemed “high risk”, were abruptly taken from their homes by
the FBI and sent to alien internment camps without any explanation for their arrests or
information about their destination (USCWRIC, 1997). Anxiety grew quickly throughout the
Japanese American community about who would be taken next and only increased as the
government froze families’ assets and swept through homes confiscating radios, cameras,
and items they believed might be used to aid the enemy. Panicked community members
burned or buried anything that might link them to Japan, including family heirlooms. Fear, a
gap in leadership after Issei leaders were arrested, and a cultural value of obedience and
respect for authority resulted in broad compliance with the government’s incarceration
orders (USCWRIC, 1997; Weglyn, 1976). Three Nisei—Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred
Korematsu, and Minoru Yasui—bravely challenged the government’s orders at the time but
were unsuccessful in their effortsand convicted of violating the government’s curfew and
removal orders.1
With less than two weeks’ notice of their removal and restricted to taking only what they
could carry, Japanese Americans were suddenly forced to sell life’s possessions at a fraction
of their worth and leave behind homes, businesses, unharvested crops, and family pets. The
stress of grief and loss was exacerbated by the fact that they had no information about where
they were being sent or for how long. For some, the indignity of the removal and anticipated
confinement proved overwhelming. One Issei man committed suicide because he suffered
from uncontrollable trembling and did not want to bring shame to his daughter if seen
together in camp (Jensen, 1997). Another, who shot himself, was found holding an Honorary
Citizenship Certificate that expressed gratitude for his prior military service to the United
States (Weglyn, 1976).
Most Japanese Americans endured two separate dislocations. First, they were moved from
their homes to temporary “assembly centers,” where they lived in hastily converted horse
stalls at racetracks and in livestock pavilion halls as the government worked to finish the
more permanent camps. After an average of three months, Japanese Americans were moved
once again to the incarceration camps in trains with drawn shades and armed guards.
Uncertainty sparked fears among many that they were being taken somewhere to be shot and
Once incarcerated, the severe conditions of the barrack-style camps created additional
physical and psychosocial stressors. Entire families were forced to live in a single room
furnished only with cots, a coal-burning stove, a single ceiling light bulb, and no running
water. Toileting, bathing, and meals all took place in communal facilities that required
waiting in lines for activities that had previously taken place in private homes. Incarcerees
endured harsh camp climates (including extreme temperatures and dust storms), substandard
medical care and education (USCWRIC, 1997), as well as instances of food poisoning and
malnutrition (Dusselier, 2002). Camp conditions also affected important aspects of
traditional Japanese family relations (Morishima, 1973). Without a home base, children
1Evidence was later found indicating that tainted records were deliberately presented to the Supreme Court during their original trials.
The cases were re-raised in the 1980s and the convictions were eventually vacated (Irons, 1983).
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spent more time socializing with peers than with family. Gender roles were disrupted as
fathers lost their breadwinner role and mothers worked in the same low-wage camp jobs as
men. At the same time, the camp governance structure required English for transactions and
allowed only citizens to participate on community councils. This created intergenerational
tensions as young adult bilingual Nisei held more powerful positions than their Japanese-
speaking Issei elders (USCWRIC, 1997).
Additional stressors related to camp governance emerged around a mandatory “loyalty oath”
questionnaire for all camp inmates 17 years and older. One question asked about willingness
to serve in the armed forces of the United States. A second question asked each respondent
to “swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the
United States …” and to “forswear allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any
other foreign government, power or organization” (USCWRIC, 1997, p. 192). Although the
majority of incarcerees viewed this as an opportunity to express their loyalty and answered
“yes” to the two questions, serious concerns arose. Some were outraged at being asked to
declare allegiance to a country that unjustly imprisoned them. Others worried that
forswearing allegiance to Japan could (a) be misused as evidence that one had prior fealty to
the emperor, or (b) leave the Issei stateless because they were barred from becoming U.S.
citizens. Some young Nisei men felt the best way to show loyalty was to answer “yes-yes”
and fight for the United States. This led to almost 33,000 Japanese Americans, including
“yes-yes” volunteers and draftees, serving in segregated military units during WWII while
their families were held behind barbed wire. The 442nd all-Nisei regimental combat team
went on to become among the most-decorated units of the war (USCWRIC, 1997). Other
Nisei men, however, believed that American loyalty meant resisting their draft orders until
Japanese Americans were constitutionally released from incarceration. Convicted of draft
evasion, they spent close to three years in federal prison (Muller, 2001). Incarcerees who
responded “no-no” to express their anger and distrust were segregated into a more restrictive
camp. Disillusioned by their treatment in America, 20,000 of these “no-no” individuals
applied to go to Japan (USCWRIC, 1997). Families and friends became divided around what
determined a “loyal” American, and tensions developed into riots and revolts in several
camps (USCWRIC, 1997). The bitter differences between those advocating compliance,
draft resisters, veterans, and “no-no’s” continued for decades after the war (Murray, 2008).
Outside the strain of the loyalty questions, camp life evolved as time progressed. Guided by
core cultural values, incarcerees developed positive ways of coping with camp stressors
individually and as a group (Nagata & Takeshita, 1998). Japanese collectivistic values of
interdependence and social harmony encouraged adaptation and flexibility (Fugita &
O’Brien, 1991), while an emphasis on
(perseverance through hardship) and
ga nai
(fatalistic acceptance) encouraged remaining focused on each day, rather than looking
to the past or worrying about the future. They actively engaged in individual artwork,
hobbies, and connected with one another through social activities (e.g., camp sports teams,
clubs, dances). Issei and Nisei also found ways to be resourceful with what was available to
them (Nagata & Takeshita, 1998). Some, for example, transformed barren camp soil into
areas for raising vegetables and fruits (Dusselier, 2002). However, the psychological stress
proved too much to bear for others. Camp records indicate that 190 incarcerees were
institutionalized for psychiatric problems and the number of reported on-site suicides were
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estimated to be four times higher than the pre-incarceration rates for Japanese Americans
(Jensen, 1997).
Eventually, Nisei who answered “yes-yes” to the loyalty questions but were not assigned to
the military were eligible to leave camp before the war’s end—if they located employment
away from the West Coast. Anxious to leave the confines of incarceration, many took low-
status jobs as domestics and farmhands in states including Illinois, New York, and New
Jersey, while their siblings and parents remained imprisoned until the war ended. These
Nisei were given only a one-way bus or train ticket and $25 as they ventured into new areas
of the country with uncertain levels of anti-Japanese sentiments. Adding to the stress of this
daunting transition, the government inhibited their ability to seek support from each other by
instructing that they not live next to or congregate in public with other Japanese Americans
(USCWRIC, 1997). Guided by their strong cultural commitment to a sense of family, most
relocated Nisei later returned to the West coast to join parents and siblings who moved there
after being released from the camps.
Postwar Impacts on Incarcerees
Japanese Americans returning to the West Coast were met with verbal abuse, rejection, and
discrimination (Loo, 1993). In California, signs reading “No Japs Wanted” were frequent
and communities held mass meetings to argue against their return. Seventy instances of
terrorism and 19 shootings were identified (Girdner & Loftis, 1969). The actual numbers,
however, likely were higher given the hesitancy of Japanese Americans to call attention to
their situation.
faced particular hardships as the war ended. Although the exclusion orders
were rescinded on December 14, 1944, the Issei were afraid to leave the isolated camps for
potentially hostile communities. Half were 50 years or older just before the war and among
those, 17% were older than 60 (Thomas & Nishimoto, 1969). Being older adults who had
lost homes and businesses, most were unable to regain their livelihoods and became
dependent on their children. Many also carried a strong sense of shame from being
imprisoned and some committed suicide; this occurred especially among those who were
elderly bachelors (USCWRIC, 1997).
offspring, in their late teens and twenties, still had their lives before them. Despite
significant barriers of racism and severe economic setbacks from the incarceration, they
focused on building their future and assisting their Issei parents (Daniels, 1993). Many went
on to establish successful livelihoods, leading some to portray them as a model minority
who overcame the wartime hardships (Nakanishi, 1993). Such a portrayal, however, failed to
recognize that Japanese Americans—Issei and Nisei alike—did not talk about the
incarceration experience with outsiders or each other for decades. They displayed symptoms
of avoidance and detachment associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Loo,
1993), mirroring the “conspiracy of silence” observed in trauma survivor groups across the
world (Danieli, 1998). Results from a survey of over 400 Nisei indicated that more than 12%
never spoke with their Issei parents about the camps, 50% spoke less than four times, and
70% of those who had any discussions conversed less than 15 minutes (Nagata, 1995).
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Adding to this, the topic of incarceration remained absent from public discourse and
textbooks. The resultant silence among Japanese Americans was more than an individual
response and instead represented a form of “social amnesia” by the entire group to suppress
the experience (Kashima, 1980).
Silence frequently serves as a means for individuals or communities to cope with trauma
(Danieli, 1998) but it does not signify that the trauma has healed. In fact, silence can
influence identity constriction, attitude formation, decision-making, and action at both the
individual and collective levels (Stone, Coman, Brown, Koppel, & Hirst, 2012) and the
incarceration silence had critical postwar consequences for the identity of Japanese
Americans (Fugita & Fernandez, 2004; Nagata & Takeshita, 1998). Avoidance of their
connection with Japan served as one way to cope with the wartime experience and racist
realities of the larger society. Some Nisei shunned all products manufactured in Japan; for
example, buying only American car brands (Inouye, 2016; Nagata, 1993). Others avoided
associating with fellow Japanese Americans to blend in. These efforts, as well as an
accentuated drive to succeed, were in hopes of being accepted and proving they were more
than 110 percent American (Mass, 1991).
Traumas stemming from deliberate, human-designed action can have especially insidious
impacts. For Nisei Japanese Americans, the unjust imprisonment by one’s own government
has been described as a betrayal by a trusted source (Mass, 1991). One Nisei interviewee
recalled that “Being labeled as an enemy alien and incarcerated in a concentration camp was
the most traumatic experience of my life. My thoughts at the time were, this country which I
loved and trusted had betrayed me” (Nagata et al., 2015, p. 360). Another recalled, “I felt
like a second-class citizen, but it really confirmed, it really emphasized that I didn’t belong
in this country, that my face, my yellow face made the difference and I will never belong”
(Nagata et al., 2015, p. 360). The rejection, in turn, created “a psychic damage” described as
“‘castration’ and “a deep consciousness of personal inferiority” (Weglyn, 1976, p. 273).
Rather than directing blame outward toward the government, many Japanese Americans
tended toward self-blame: that they somehow should have been “more American”
(Miyamoto, 1986). This sense of humiliation and shame has been seen as paralleling the
feelings reported by rape victims (Hansen & Mitson, 1974).
The biopsychosocial model suggests that racist environmental events can lead to heightened
psychological and physiological stress responses that, when chronic, result in disease risk
and adverse negative medical outcomes (Clark, Anderson, Clark, & Williams, 1999).
Avoiding discussion of one’s traumatic experiences is also associated with worse physical
health (Pennebaker, Barger, & Tiebout, 1989). Mass (1976) attributed the high Nisei postwar
rates of psychosomatic disorders and peptic ulcers to the incarceration. Former incarcerees’
vital statistics support this notion: they had near twice the risk of cardiovascular disease,
mortality, and premature deaths than their nonincarcerated counterparts (Jensen, 1997).
Detrimental health stemming from adverse effects of incarceration trauma and silence
affected some more than others, depending on their demographics. Experiences of trauma
leave a stronger imprint at certain developmental stages (Maercker, 1999; Ogle, Rubin, &
Siegler, 2013). The average age of Nisei at the beginning of their incarceration was
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approximately 18 years (Fugita & O’Brien, 1991). Given that a majority were incarcerated
in adolescence, a critical period of identity and worldview formation (Erikson, 1968), the
long-term impacts on older Nisei are not surprising. Those who were in their late teens to
early twenties and most likely to have had their education and career plans derailed, reported
a stronger sense of injustice and stress around their incarceration (Fugita & Fernandez,
2004; Nagata & Takeshita, 1998). Older Nisei from Fugita and Fernandez’s (2004) sample
of over 150 Nisei from King County, Washington, also reported no positive memories when
recollecting their incarceration 50 years later. Postwar national heart mortality data suggests
that the toll placed on older Nisei extended beyond the war: the most vulnerable group were
22–26 years of age while in camp, followed by those 17–21 years, and the least vulnerable
were 7–11 years (Jensen, 1997). In contrast, Nisei who were younger while in camp were
more likely to recall a sense of adventure or anticipation (Nagata & Takeshita, 1998), and
positive memories of their experience such as friendships and social activities (Fugita &
Fernandez, 2004).
Additional research highlights gender differences in post-incarceration impacts. Men,
particularly those who were college-aged while in camp, held more negative feelings overall
about their past incarceration, especially about prejudice and discrimination, and reported
more difficulty with being confined than women (Fugita & Fernandez, 2004). Nagata’s
(1993) survey of nearly 500 third generation (Sansei) Japanese American adults also
suggests serious health consequences for Nisei men. While Sansei adult children reported
equivalent rates of early death (before the age of 60 years) for mothers regardless of whether
their mother had been in an incarceration camp, twice as many previously incarcerated
fathers had died early when compared with nonincarcerated fathers.
Across demographic groups, individual differences also influenced long-term incarceration
coping. Nisei who reported higher coping had higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels
of negative emotions about their incarceration-related experiences (Nagata & Tsuru, 2007).
Better coping was associated with greater attributions of control to external powerful others
and lower attributions to chance or fate suggesting that, over time, less emphasis on fatalism
and an acknowledgment of governmental power may have been adaptive. Qualitative data
also provides examples of adaptive approach-oriented coping across individuals. Many Nisei
positively reframed the incarceration as a time of skill development and the forced
resettlement as expanding personal horizons beyond their ethnic community (Nagata &
Takeshita, 1998).
Intergenerational Impacts
Massive traumas result in radiating and long-term effects that are transferred as a “family
legacy” to children born after the trauma (Danieli, 1998). For the third-generation
born after the WWII, these legacy effects were multifold. The severe economic losses
following the forced removal and years of confinement meant an absence of “nest eggs” for
the Sansei to inherit (Nagata, 1993). For some, the lost acres of prime agricultural lands
would have been worth millions of dollars. Other impacts that cannot be easily quantified
included experiencing the compromised physical and mental health or premature death of a
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parent. More generally, the postwar Sansei generation grew up wondering how their lives
might be different if their parents had not been incarcerated (Nagata, 1993).
Many critical intergenerational trauma effects are transmitted through parenting interactions
(Danieli, 1982). One primary impact of trauma on Nisei parenting manifested in family
silence about the incarceration. The vast majority of Nisei did not discuss the camp
experience with their Sansei offspring, not only to avoid their own traumatic memories but
also to protect their children from the burden of knowing what happened. One Nisei
interviewee noted, “I want them to grow up straight and tall and beautiful as they can,
without all the sadness, sort of branding them that they are different” (Nagata et al., 2015, p.
362). Sansei described conversations with parents as “cryptic,” “oblique,” and “evasive” or
limited to only brief, humorous, “before” and “after camp” anecdotes. Data gathered from
491 adult Sansei born after the war, indicated they had approximately 10 conversations
about “camp” lasting an average of 15 to 30 minutes in their entire lifetime. When the topic
was raised, mothers were reported as having been more likely than fathers to initiate the
conversation. This may reflect a gendered tendency for mothers to communicate with their
children in the home or the socialization of fathers, as men, to avoid appearing vulnerable or
too verbally expressive. The overall absence of discussion created an acute Sansei awareness
of an ominous gap in their family history. They noticed shadows of the incarceration when a
Nisei parent displayed an unexpected harsh and curt reaction toward a particular food that
reactivated negative memories of camp meals (e.g., apple butter or mutton). Yet, with stories
untold, these unexplained interactions left the Sansei feeling upset by their parent’s sudden
sad or angry response (Nagata, 1993).
While the Nisei had hoped the silence would protect their children from the burden of
knowing what happened, parental silence about trauma can have negative consequences for
the next generation (Wiseman et al., 2002). Sansei survey data found partial support for this
relationship. Lower levels of Nisei parents’ incarceration-related communication were
associated with Sansei perceiving greater familial distance and lower positive impacts from
their parent’s incarceration. However, higher levels of parental incarceration-related
communication were also associated with greater Sansei anger and sadness, suggesting that
while more communication may have helped Sansei feel closer to their parents, greater
emotional distress accompanied the knowledge they gained. Regardless of level of parental
communication, most Sansei reported anger about the incarceration injustice and sadness
from recognizing the ways their parents were thwarted from achieving their full potential
(Nagata, 1993).
A second important trauma impact on post-incarceration parenting was the Niseis’ efforts to
blend into mainstream society by de-emphasizing Japanese culture and language. This
resulted in an accelerated loss of Japanese language and cultural practices for the Sansei. “I
think it (the internment) affected them (my parents) a lot … the way they raised us very
much as non-Japanese,” shared one Sansei interviewee, “they encouraged us to do
everything so-called ‘American’ (Ivy League, football). We didn’t do any judo. We didn’t do
any kendo. We didn’t do anything Japanese” (Nagata, 1993, pp. 137–138). This
diminishment of ethnic heritage had important psychological consequences for the Sansei
who described themselves as having “inherited” the need to become “super” American and
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prove their worth to society. Though a majority of Sansei succeeded in meeting their
parents’ expectations, some Japanese Americans attributed increased drug abuse, suicides,
and gang activities among a subset of Sansei in the 1960s and 1970s to parental wartime
incarceration (Mass, 1976). Survey data indicates additional reverberations of the
incarceration on the Sansei generation. Compared with those whose parents were not
incarcerated, adult Sansei who had a parent in the camps were significantly less confident
that their rights as an American citizen would not be violated. Forty-four percent of Sansei
who had both parents in camps also agreed that a future incarceration of Japanese
Americans could happen (Nagata, 1993).
Although sadness and anger about incarceration trauma sequelae are predominant, the
Sansei also point to positive consequences. Most prevalently, they mention the pride they
take in their parents’ and relatives’ resilience in the face of the wartime experiences. Some
Sansei also report satisfaction in completing a specific educational or career goal that their
parent was unable to complete because of the incarceration. A third positive is a heightened
sensitivity to injustice and the finding that Sansei survey respondents strongly agreed they
would actively resist a future governmental incarceration (Nagata, 1993).
Research conducted with the fourth (
) generation Japanese Americans suggests
continued incarceration trauma impacts. Though the Yonsei have been eager to learn about
the incarceration from their Sansei parents and Nisei grandparents, they still encounter
aspects of silence (Mayeda, 1995; Yamano, 1994). One might expect the Yonsei to be less
connected with their ethnic history than previous generations. However, influenced by an
increasingly multicultural environment, Yonsei are reviving their knowledge of Japanese
heritage, cultural practices, language, and Asian American history (Tsuda, 2015). Yet, the
specifics about the camps remain “cryptic or nonexistent”, a gap they attribute to their
Sansei parents being raised by the Nisei to assimilate (Mayeda, 1995, p. 135). As a result,
most Yonsei have relied on books to learn what happened. Yonsei also attribute their loss of
Japanese culture and language to their family’s incarceration and express a lack of trust in
the government similar to the Sansei (Mayeda, 1995). However, Yonsei and Sansei
generations differ in their coping strategies. Mayeda (1995) found that while Sansei used a
range of avoidant and confrontational coping strategies, Yonsei mostly reported
implementing confrontational coping strategies. This, in combination with their increased
ethnic identification and desire to educate the next generation, suggests the Yonsei will
remain engaged with issues surrounding the wartime incarceration. More research will be
needed to explore whether a similar trend continues into the fifth generation (
Redress for Incarceration Trauma
The Japanese Americans’ trauma remained largely unaddressed for decades. In 1980,
however, Congress formed the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of
Civilians to assess the circumstances surrounding the incarceration. In addition to reviewing
extensive documents and records, the commission gathered testimonies from over 750
witnesses in 20 cities across the country. Many of those who testified were former
incarcerees who, for the first time since the war, spoke of the suffering they endured. The
commission concluded that the incarceration was a “grave injustice” and recommended that
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Congress issue a public written apology along with a one-time payment of $20,000 to each
surviving incarceree (USCWRIC, 1997, pp. 462– 463). More than 40 years after the war, the
Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was signed into law and followed the commission
Historical traumas are rarely formally acknowledged at a governmental level. While the U.S.
government has acknowledged a small number of the injustices against ethnic minority
groups, its effort to redress the incarceration trauma was unusual because of the large
number of eligible recipients and the formal apology being accompanied by Congress-
approved monetary reparation (Nagata et al., 2015). The commission was critical in
achieving redress success. However, the movement to address the injustice was part of a
much longer trajectory shaped by other social forces. Collective silence can mute the past
but suppressed traumatic experiences still result in experiences of “haunting,” a term Inouye
(2016) used to describe the lingering feelings of disturbance that can persist across
generations and eventually propel collective actions, as with the redress movement. Those
who drive the processing of cultural trauma often come from the next generation, a “carrier
group” that brings to public attention the significance of the trauma as situated in the larger
social structure (Alexander, 2004). For Japanese Americans, the Sansei became the carrier
group that encouraged former incarcerees to verbalize their traumas and seek governmental
redress (Nagata et al., 2015). The Sansei were acculturated to the mainstream American
society and more comfortable speaking out. Furthermore, the mid-1960s Black Power
movement allowed for a reshaping of ethnic identity: Sansei began taking ethnic studies
classes and were able to see the incarceration as a form of racial oppression much like that
of other racial minority groups (Maki, Kitano, & Berthold, 1999). This redefinition of group
identity motivated Sansei to take part in various incarceration-related activities (Nakanishi,
The move to seek redress also converged with the Civil Rights movement as African
American leaders voiced their concerns regarding Title II of the 1950 Internal Security Act
which referenced the Japanese American incarceration and allowed the attorney general to
“apprehend and … detain … each person as to whom there is reasonable ground to believe
that such person probably will engage in, or probably will conspire with others to engage in,
acts of espionage or sabotage [in the event of] war, invasion, or insurrection in aid of a
foreign enemy” (Internal Security Act of 1950, Title II). Title II generated public attention in
the late 1960s. African Americans and activists raised concerns that it could justify
confinement of those involved in ghetto riots and antiwar demonstrations and campaigned to
have it repealed (Nagata et al., 2015). This broader attention to the injustice of the wartime
incarceration within and outside of the Japanese American community, and the successful
repeal of Title II, served as crucial precursors to redress. The importance of legal strategies
in postwar incarceration coping was also reflected in the 1980s campaigns led by Sansei
activist lawyers to overturn the convictions of Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu, and
Minoru Yasui, the three Nisei men who had refused to comply with the government during
the war. The lawyers’ success in invalidating the men’s original wartime convictions drew
increased attention to the incarceration injustice and exemplified both the importance of
these Niseis’ commitment to see justice four decades later and the inspired efforts of the
Sansei who advocated on their behalf (Parham & Clauss-Ehlers, 2017).
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The majority of Japanese Americans supported seeking redress. However, some in the
community were concerned that “making waves” would re-raise negative sentiments toward
the group. Others worried that accepting monetary compensation would trivialize the pain
and suffering Japanese Americans had endured. Important differences also emerged on the
best redress approach, many of which reflected the continued tensions between the Japanese
American Citizens League (which urged cooperation with the government during the war
and praised Nisei military heroism), no-no’s, and draft resisters (Murray, 2008).
Nonetheless, the redress process and its ultimate success were critical for Japanese
American healing by publicly acknowledging the incarceration trauma, replacing self-blame
with public system-blame, and promoting recovery from longstanding silence (Fugita &
Fernandez, 2004; Loo, 1993). The break in silence, in turn, facilitated an additional form of
coping that focused on educating the public in hopes of preventing similar injustices in the
future. These educational efforts have included the establishment of the Japanese American
National Museum which includes an entire section on the incarceration and the Densho
website (, a nonprofit organization that provides extensive information
about the incarceration as well as oral histories from former incarcerees.
Respondents from a national survey of more than 500 Nisei former incarcerees (Nagata &
Takeshita, 2002) reported moderately positive reactions to receiving redress and tended to
agree that, overall, redress brought some sense of relief. Interviews conducted with 30 of the
respondents further suggest that the government’s apology and acknowledgment of
wrongdoing was most important. While the monetary award was appreciated, interviewees
noted that it could never address the losses they had sustained. There also was particular
sadness that their Issei parents did not live to receive redress (Daniels, 1993). It is important
to note that survey respondent attitudes toward different aspects of redress impact varied,
with the strongest perceived positive impact reported for “increasing faith in government”
and the lowest impact on “reducing negative feelings about the incarceration” and “relieving
physical suffering from the incarceration.” In addition, qualitative analyses of the Nisei
interviews indicated that 40% of interviewees mentioned “angry/bitter” emotions when
describing their post-incarceration views (Nagata, Cheng, & Nguyen, 2012). These findings
suggest the enduring impact of trauma and the limits of redress.
Demographic variations and differences in individual beliefs also occurred with regard to
reactions toward redress impacts. Older Nisei respondents, those with lower income, and
those with a preference for associating with other Japanese Americans reported greater
overall personal redress benefits (Nagata & Takeshita, 2002). It is possible that these groups
suffered more hardships from the incarceration and in turn, experienced more positive
benefits from redress. Women reported experiencing more redress relief than men, perhaps
reflecting a tendency for women to approach justice from a more relational and caring
perspective than men (Gilligan, 1982). Religious affiliation may also impact Nisei response
to redress. Buddhist former incarcerees reported greater emotional, physical, and economic
redress benefits than Christians (Wu, Kim, & Nagata, 2018) possibly because they endured
greater difficulties before, during, and after the war (Fugita & Fernandez, 2004). Individual
differences in belief systems also appear to be related. Nisei who subscribed more strongly
to the belief in a just world were found to report greater benefits from redress (Kim, Nagata,
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& Akiyama, 2015). This suggests that redress may be especially effective as a means of
restoring a sense of justice if one believes justice can be restored in the first place.
Strategies for Healing and Intervention
The redress movement significantly empowered Japanese Americans by addressing the
social injustice of the incarceration. It facilitated healing by directly addressing the
suppressed trauma and bringing the community together around a demand for government
acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Public and community discourse became a significant
source of healing, providing a forum to express previously hidden pain and anger. “It
became obvious that a forty-year silence did not mean that bitter memories had dissipated;
they had only been buried in a shallow grave” (USCWRIC, 1991, p. 297).
Similarly, group pilgrimages to former camp locations and annual ceremonies to remember
the incarceration have also promoted healing. Pilgrimages allow children of survivors to
vicariously witness their parents’ traumatic past and allow survivors to revisit traumatic
memories amid positive support and respect (Loo, 1993). Initially undertaken by a few
individual Nisei in the 1960s, pilgrimages have evolved into larger, organized and
multigenerational events. Day of Remembrance ceremonies, which began in the 1970s with
the redress movement (Maki et al., 1999) and are now held yearly on February 19th (the date
of the removal order), also provide healing. Both pilgrimages and Day of Remembrance
gatherings provide camp survivors, their children, grandchildren, and the community an
opportunity to remember to the past, a process that fosters group resilience and survival in
traumatized groups (Lee & Clarke, 2013).
Japanese American community groups, such as the Japanese American Cultural and
Community Center, along with Buddhist and Christian organizations also have further
promoted healing. By offering opportunities to join with other Japanese Americans in
cultural, social, and educational events, they help generate ethnic pride and support for all
generations of Japanese Americans. These connections, in turn, have provided ways to
alleviate post-incarceration impacts in a non-stigmatized way that does not require
professional mental health services. This is particularly important given the stigma that
many Japanese Americans attach to utilizing such services (Henkin, 1985).
Some Japanese Americans, however, have sought psychotherapy. True (1990) describes a
Nisei woman who became aware during therapy that the anger she felt toward her husband
stemmed from her childhood camp experiences. Similarly, Nagata’s (1991) case illustrations
reveal how Sanseis’ initial presentations of seemingly generic concerns of self-esteem,
confidence and relationship problems were linked to their parents’ incarceration experiences.
Ethnic identity is especially important given the powerful consequences of the incarceration
related to Japanese heritage. Because such themes may not appear clearly linked to
presenting problems, it is important for therapists to provide a supportive context in which a
family history of incarceration trauma is assessed and the possibility of incarceration-related
themes can be explored over time. Providing a safe place to explore, recognize, and affirm
these impacts is consistent with adopting a race-informed clinical model of trauma treatment
(Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2006; Comas-Díaz, 2016). More specifically for Japanese
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Americans, narrative therapy, using guided imagery related to the incarceration, and having
clients view videotaped interviews of former incarcerees have been suggested as potentially
useful therapeutic techniques (Nagata, 1991). When the therapist does not share the same
background of racial trauma, taking an interpersonal stance of cultural humility (other-
oriented, respectful, lack of superiority) is especially critical (Hook, Davis, Owen,
Worthington, & Utsey, 2013). Therapists might also prioritize facilitating a client’s process
of empowerment that continues after the therapeutic encounter (Cattaneo & Chapman,
2010). This empowered understanding of the trauma in conjunction with community support
can help facilitate future resilience.
Small group approaches have also been used to facilitate healing. In one group, Sansei
participated in intergenerational dialogues with Nisei to explore their family camp legacies
(Miyoshi, 1980). Another group therapy approach focused on uncovering the unique
traumatic experiences of Sansei who were interned as young children (Ina, 1997). Yet
another small group approach to healing took place in 1994, when Sansei joined a group of
Nisei former internees to dismantle original barracks from the Heart Mountain, Wyoming
campsite and move them to Los Angeles, California, to be resurrected as a museum exhibit
(Yamato & Honda, 1998).
Community healing also has occurred through the arts and humanities. Early Asian
American jazz musicians of the 70s and 80s were activists whose compositions were
inspired by the incarceration and redress testimonies (Hung, 2012). In addition, postwar
Asian American writers and poets (e.g., Lawson Inada, John Okada, Julie Otsuka, Jeanne
Wakatsuki-Houston), plays (e.g., “Miss Minidoka, 1943,” “Hold These Truths,” and the
musical “Allegiance”), and numerous films have promoted engagement with the
incarceration trauma.
Continuing Relevance of the Incarceration
By the end of WWII, 117,000 innocent Japanese Americans had been affected by the
government’s order for removal and incarceration (U.S. National Archives and Research
Administration, 2017). Their imprisonment, based solely on country of ancestry, represents
one of the greatest constitutional injustices in American history. The impacts of this race-
based trauma resulted in a culture of silence that had far-reaching consequences extending
across multiple generations of Japanese Americans. Healing has occurred at individual,
group, and community levels, drawing upon psychotherapeutic, artistic, and legal efforts,
including a successful demand for a governmental acknowledgment of wrongdoing and
redress. While it is tempting to view redress success as signaling the “end” of the
incarceration trauma, Japanese Americans have continued to experience race-based
stressors. A chapter building of the Japanese American Citizens League was spray-painted
with a swastika and the words
White Supreme
as redress efforts were underway (Arizona
JACL, 1990) and anti-Japanese sentiments increased significantly during the economic
downturn in the 70s and 80s when angry U.S. autoworkers bashed Japanese-made cars. In
1982, Vincent Chin, a Chinese American who had been called “Jap” and accused of causing
American unemployment, was beaten to death with a baseball bat by two white autoworkers
(U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1992). Contemporary social media and the Internet can
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also facilitate the spread of offensive racial stereotypes, such as the video of a major league
baseball player pulling the corners of his eyes into “slant eyes” after hitting a homerun from
a Japanese pitcher.
Despite the passage of 75 years, the Japanese American incarceration remains highly
relevant. Terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 elicited calls to round up and confine
individuals who might be a security threat, as was done with Japanese Americans after Pearl
Harbor (Groves & Hayasaki, 2001). Even before the attacks, Saito (2001) had cautioned,
“Just as Asians were ‘raced’ as foreign, and “presumptively disloyal”, Arab Americans and
Muslims have been ‘raced’ as ‘terrorists’” (p. 12). Reference to the incarceration has also re-
emerged amidst more recent national security tensions. It is important to note in this context
that although judicial decisions in the1980s vacated the wartime convictions of the three
Nisei who challenged the exclusion orders, they did not overturn the Supreme Court’s
original 1944 Korematsu v. United States decision supporting the government’s actions.
In June, 2018, the Supreme Court decided to uphold President Trump’s executive order on
national security banning or severely restricting travel from specific countries to the U.S.
The original Korematsu case was noted in the case opinions. Justices on both sides agreed
that the Korematsu decision, justified at the time as necessary for national security during
World War II, had been gravely wrong. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, writing for the
majority opinion, stated that “the forcible relocation of U.S. citizens to concentration camps,
solely and explicitly on the basis of race, is objectively unlawful and outside the scope of
presidential authority.” However, there was marked disagreement regarding the relevance of
the Korematsu case to the travel ban. Chief Justice Roberts noted, “… it is wholly inapt to
liken that morally repugnant order [Executive Order 9066] to a facially neutral policy
denying certain foreign nationals the privilege of admission”. In contrast, the opinion of
dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor saw the decision to uphold the travel ban as
“redeploying the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one
‘gravely wrong’ decision with another.” Response to the decision by the Japanese American
Citizens League’s (JACL) also voiced concern, pointing out that the original World War II
exclusion order was also “facially neutral … and did not specify Japanese or Japanese
Americans … However, in its application, it was entirely discriminatory in its effect, and
that is what the court has failed to recognize in its ruling today” (Japanese American
Citizens League, 2018, p. 5).
Obvious differences exist between the context and nature of the travel ban and the
incarceration. Japanese Americans already living in the United States were rounded up and
imprisoned solely because of their ethnic ancestry, without regard to citizenship.
Nonetheless, national security arguments underlay both the incarceration and the travel ban
policies. Clearly, critical problems often lie between written intent and actual
implementation, and the traumatic sequelae experienced by Japanese Americans
demonstrate the serious consequences of governmental policies that are enacted in unjust,
discriminatory ways.
The incarceration also has continued relevance to psychology’s long history of addressing
social justice (Leong, Pickren, & Vasquez, 2017). Japanese Americans’ incarceration-based
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experiences encourage psychologists to consider the broad scope of racial trauma impacts,
coping, and resilience in relation to individual differences, family and multigenerational
processes, and community responses. It also points to the value of a psychology that “is fully
grounded in history and culture” and attends to the silence surrounding memories that
accompany major social and political disruption (Apfelbaum, 2000, p. 1008). At the same
time, the incarceration trauma underscores the importance of psychological research on the
processes that underlie racism and discrimination. The long history of racial prejudice that
fueled the exclusion and imprisonment of Japanese Americans characterizes the experiences
of ethnoracial minority groups. Contemporary studies indicate that most people
unknowingly sort others into “us” versus “them” with minimal effort, systematically
reinforcing inequalities (Richeson & Sommers, 2016) and that subtle and unintentional
mechanisms such as in-group favoritism contribute to racism and discrimination (Greenwald
& Pettigrew, 2014). Continued efforts to understand these processes and identify conditions
for reducing prejudice can assist in tackling these challenges. Finally, the incarceration
highlights the importance of studying cross-group alliances and community activism in
response to racial trauma. Japanese Americans collaborated with African American activists
to address 1960s civil rights at the infancy of the incarceration redress effort. Today, spurred
by a sense of responsibility to draw attention to the dangers and consequences of wrongful
incarceration, they focus on supporting Muslim and Arab American communities facing
ongoing hostilities and suspicion (Japanese American Citizens League, 2016; Rahim, 2017).
Psychology often looks inward for explanations of behavior by examining cognitions,
unconscious processes, and brain functioning. These are important approaches. However, the
Japanese American WWII incarceration reminds us of the need also to look at aggregate
sociocultural phenomena that shape lives. Individual differences in response to traumas vary
depending on the circumstances but shared group experiences of historical and
contemporary events can powerfully frame subsequent reactions and sense of well-being
across time and generations. Psychologists are urged to attend to this broader level
sociohistorical context when addressing racial trauma and injustice.
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... To consider how agential realism can inform marriage and family therapists' conceptualizations of trauma and subsequent treatment of the phenomenon of traumatic stress, the primary concepts that comprise Barad's theory are defined, outlined alongside additional key terms inherent to the theory in Table 1. The implications of Barad's agential realism for trauma and traumatic stress are then explicated, drawing on Barad's explorations of Kyoko Hayashi's account of Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings (Barad, 2017) and the experiences of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor as described by Nagata et al. (2019). Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes, stripped of their belongings, property, and civil rights, and retained in poor conditions while experiencing race-based prejudice and stigma (Nagata et al., 2019). ...
... The implications of Barad's agential realism for trauma and traumatic stress are then explicated, drawing on Barad's explorations of Kyoko Hayashi's account of Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings (Barad, 2017) and the experiences of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor as described by Nagata et al. (2019). Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes, stripped of their belongings, property, and civil rights, and retained in poor conditions while experiencing race-based prejudice and stigma (Nagata et al., 2019). The resultant traumatic stress has been intergenerationally transmitted, affecting not only the incarcerated individuals, but the families and larger sociocultural population of Japanese Americans (Nagata et al., 2019). ...
... Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes, stripped of their belongings, property, and civil rights, and retained in poor conditions while experiencing race-based prejudice and stigma (Nagata et al., 2019). The resultant traumatic stress has been intergenerationally transmitted, affecting not only the incarcerated individuals, but the families and larger sociocultural population of Japanese Americans (Nagata et al., 2019). Barad (2007) employed the term intra-action, as opposed to interaction, to highlight all matter is not discrete and individual, but instead entangled and co-constituting. ...
This article serves as an introduction to Karen Barad’s agential realism, a feminist new materialist theory, employing her theoretical tenets to explore how this framework matters for marriage and family therapists, particularly regarding the treatment of trauma and traumatic stress. Entangling Barad’s agential realism with systems theory, this article considers how marriage and family therapists intra-act with traumatized clients to produce different becomings. In particular, this article explores how power and oppression are performed and reinforced to perpetuate traumatic stress, and puts forth recommendations for how this theoretical orientation can aid marriage and family therapists in embodying a feminist and just therapeutic approach for understanding, diagnosing, and treating traumatic stress. Employing a case example of the incarceration of Japanese Americans following Pearl Harbor, traumatic stress is conceptualized as a material-discursive phenomenon, opening possibilities for thinking trauma and healing differently. Clinical intra-ventions are put forth in contrast to therapeutic interventions, underscoring re-membering as a re-turn to the material in the work of systemic, feminist-informed trauma treatments.
... The Japanese American redress movement, which yielded a formal apology and monetary compensation for Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII, is a rare example of official admission of wrongdoing by the US government (albeit 40 years late). This community advocacy and eventual public acknowledgement opened a national dialogue, formally placed the responsibility on the US government, and mobilized Japanese Americans to share their history to protest and prevent other injustices (Nagata et al., 2019). As the US maintenance of its own imperial power is based on the organized forgetting of the trauma it has inflicted overseas, similar public recognition of the wartime trauma experienced by other Asian American communities is unlikely. ...
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Little is known about how Asian American families, as well as other racially marginalized families, communicate about ethnic and racial group histories, particularly regarding historical trauma. Unlike personal trauma, historical trauma refers to distressing or life-threatening events which members of a group with a shared social identity experience together and pass on to their descendants. It has been studied in a variety of groups and contexts, notably in Holocaust survivors and their families and in Native American communities. The concept has seen limited application to Asian American groups, despite its relevance to their unique and shared lived experiences. For instance, the majority of Asian Americans have immigrated from countries across Asia that have been profoundly affected by war and political upheaval in the past century. Research on historical trauma among Asian Americans has focused primarily on refugees who fled the US wars in Southeast Asia, with some research on Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II. Historical trauma related to other major events, such as the India/Pakistan Partition, the Chinese Civil War and Cultural Revolution, the Korean War, and the Sri Lankan Civil War, have not been examined among Asian Americans. A lack of recognition of these historical traumas within families and communities, as well as in the psychological literature, may mask important pre-migration history effects on Asian American families across generations. In this paper, we consider how historical trauma impacts Asian American individuals, families, and communities. We also examine the role of intergenerational communication in historical trauma and in Asian American families and communities. Finally, we discuss historical trauma among Asian Americans within the framework of radical healing, particularly how intergenerational communication about historical trauma can raise critical consciousness, facilitate ethnic-racial identity development, and reinforce ethnic-racial socialization.
... Of course, holding U.S. citizenship has not shielded Asian Americans from being viewed as perpetual foreigners, especially during times of perceived threat to U.S. national security, economy, or health. In one of the most egregious examples of the violation of civil rights, 110,000 Japanese Americans residing in the West-62% of whom were U.S. citizens-were incarcerated in internment camps because they were seen as posing threats of espionage and treason, resulting in intergenerational trauma (Nagata et al., 2019). In another example, Vincent Chin, a Chinese American draftsman in his 20s, was brutally murdered by two White autoworkers in Detroit in 1982 based on the autoworkers' racial animus toward the Japanese for the decline in the U.S. auto industry (Kurashige, 2002). ...
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Research within Asian American psychology continually grows to include a range of topics that expand on the heterogeneity, hybridity, and multiplicity of the Asian American psychological experience. Still, research focused on distinct racialization and psychological processes of Asians in America is limited. To advance scientific knowledge on the study of race and racism in the lives of Asian Americans, we draw on Asian critical race theory and an Asian Americanist perspective that emphasizes the unique history of oppression, resilience, and resistance among Asian Americans. First, we discuss the rationale and significance of applying Asian critical race theory to Asian American psychology. Second, we review the racialized history of Asians in America, including the dissemination of essentialist stereotypes (e.g., perpetual foreigner, model minority, and sexual deviants) and the political formation of an Asian American racial identity beginning in the late 1960s. We emphasize that this history is inextricably linked to how race and racism is understood and studied today in Asian American psychology. Finally, we discuss the implications of Asian critical race theory and an Asian Americanist perspective to research within Asian American psychology and conclude with suggestions for future research to advance current theory and methodology.
... Drawing on these cultural perspectives allows for opportunities to explore dimensions of meaning making along with resilience as vital components associated with IGT (Hatala et al., 2016). The second direction would be to intentionally integrate psychological constructs that directly examine culturally associated domains in IGT studies such as acculturation and enculturation (Cromer et al., 2018), racial socialization (Nagata & Cheng, 2003), and racial trauma (Nagata et al., 2019). ...
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It has been over 20 years since the publication of Danieli’s (1998) International Handbook of Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma, a seminal cross-cultural compilation examining the generational effects of mass trauma and intergenerational trauma (IGT). In the years since this book appeared, research on IGT has continued to be applied to many cultural groups, including those who have survived the Indian Residential Schools, the Khmer Rouge regime, or the Rwandan genocide. Previous reviews of IGT research have focused mainly on survivors of the Holocaust, which limits the cross-cultural application of this field of study. The purpose of this article is to provide a scoping review of scholarship published between 1999 and 2019 that aims to understand how IGT has been studied in cross-cultural applications. Overall, 29 articles were identified and reviewed. In light of the fact that cross-cultural perspectives on IGT are still emerging (Sirikantraporn & Green, 2016), the methodology and the cultural considerations described in this review can inform future cross-cultural IGT research.
... Rather, such disparate health outcomes have been created over the passage of time by ASHEs, specifically those adverse experiences affecting racial/ethnic groups according to their relationship to systems of oppression and the effects those relationships engendered. In North America, large-scale examples of ASHEs include the extermination and forced migration of Native Americans, 12,13 the capture of Black Africans and their subsequent transport to and enslavement in the Americas, 14,15 the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, 16 the discrimination endured by African Americans under Jim Crow laws, 17 and the marginalization and more recent overt persecution of Latino immigrants in the United States. 18 ASHEs also may occur on a much smaller scale: local environmental disasters and isolated episodes of political violence can function as ASHEs, affecting limited groups of people, 19,20 especially when such trauma results from purposeful neglect or intentional harm. ...
A series of major global events during 2020, particularly in the United States, have forced us to confront the ugly truth that racism in all its forms is ever present. Regardless of our identity, we all must deal with elements of this in our daily lives, as it is deeply embedded throughout society and in our bodies. The essence of racism-related trauma is in the strong emotional responses elicited, the gross violence we experience, and the ensuing profound impact on our collective mental health. While they come as no surprise, the various posttraumatic reactions secondary to the ongoing intergenerational complex trauma of racism, oppression, and colonialism have gone unrecognized as such. The authors will explore these topics with emphasis on the benefits and challenges of talking with youth about race and identity, strategies for coping, and ways that we can help promote racial healing in ourselves and our communities.
In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which created the legal means for the forced removal and incarceration of ca. 120,000 Japanese Americans. They spent many years in ten incarceration camps of the War Relocation Authority. While the incarceration was justified by military necessity, it is clearly based on racism and discrimination. It was only in 1988 that the US government apologized for the incarceration and paid reparations to former incarcerees. This study focuses on this not well-known topic and deals with the question of how the incarceration is represented in different media of cultural memory nowadays. The incarceration is part of the cultural memory not only of Japanese Americans but has also found its way into the cultural memory of US society as a whole. Through the analysis of graphic novels ("Take What You Can Carry" [Kevin C. Pyle, 2012] and "Gaijin: American Prisoner of War" [Matt Faulkner, 2014]), picture books ("So Far from the Sea" [Eve Bunting, 1998] and "Fish for Jimmy" [Katie Yamasaki, 2013]) as well as paintings and prints by the Japanese American artist Roger Shimomura (1939-), this study shows how the Japanese American incarceration and its trauma is remembered. Graphic novels, picture books, paintings and prints are here defined as distinct media of cultural memory through which traumata and memories can be represented in a unique way. To decipher the narrative strategies of the media, different theories are combined. Jan and Aleida Assmann’s theory of cultural memory, Astrid Erll’s ideas about media of cultural memory as well as the theory of prosthetic memory by Alison Landsberg (2004) and the theory of postmemory by Marianne Hirsch (1997) build the theoretical framework. Media of cultural memory enable people to remember the past, but also refer to present and future. With the help of the theory of cultural traumata by Jeffrey C. Alexander et al. the incarceration is shown to be a trauma that not only influences Japanese Americans but also US society in general. In addition, the theory of narrative identity (Jerome Bruner, Douglas Ezzy, Margaret R. Somers) is used to show how the story of the incarceration stabilizes identities. Since this study looks at media of cultural memory produced by both Japanese Americans and non-Japanese Americans, it offers a variety of points of view and a number of narrative strategies. All discussed works use text and visuals as well as fact and fiction, but to a different degree. The analysis establishes how the producers mix facts of the incarceration with personal events in their lives, in which way symbols of the incarceration (e.g. barbed wire fence or guard towers) are depicted visually and how text is used to explain the incarceration experience and to show the recipients the connection between past and present. The analysis of excerpts of graphic novels and picture books as well as paintings and prints shows that these media of cultural memory have a therapeutic function for both producers and recipients. Through the fragmentation in image and text these media allow producers and recipients to reflect on and work through traumata. Roger Shimomura’s paintings and prints stand out in particular: he spent a part of his childhood in an incarceration camp and places himself in some of his artworks. In this way, he reflects on his own experiences and allows the recipients to gain an insight into his personal trauma. Furthermore, these media have a didactic function. They do, however, not only give the recipients the opportunity to learn about the incarceration from historical fact but combine fact and fiction. By doing so, the media ask the recipients to reflect on their own position in society. Especially Faulkner’s graphic novel and the picture books show the relationship between the depicted characters in text and image, so that recipients can imagine themselves in the situation of Japanese Americans during World War II. Thus, recipients are encouraged to empathize and show solidarity with the Japanese American community; a feeling of belonging, not only with Japanese Americans but also with minority groups in US society overall, is created. These media of cultural memory are therefore not simple objects with which the Japanese American incarceration is remembered by; instead, these are objects that warn people about the risks of repeating history. Past, present and future are shown to be intertwined.
Persistent diarrhea continues to pose enormous challenges globally. With the substantial overall reduction in childhood mortality from acute diarrhea, the share of mortality due to persistent diarrhea is rising. It is therefore more important now to know how best to define, diagnose, triage, and treat persistent diarrhea. As the duration of illness lengthens, malnutrition becomes increasingly manifest and this relationship is bidirectional. Many, but not all, episodes of persistent diarrhea are infectious in origin, and the responsible organisms depend on endemicity. A few common pathogens have been particularly associated with persistent diarrhea, including bacteria (Aeromonas, Campylobacter, Clostridium difficile, Escherichia coli, Plesiomonas, Salmonella, Shigella), parasites (Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia, Microsporidia), and viruses (rotavirus, norovirus). Treatment is focused on reversing dehydration (if present), nutritional interventions including balanced protein energy and micronutrient supplements, pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT), and judicious use of antibiotics for certain types of inflammatory diarrhea. Strategies should also be directed toward preventing concurrent infections and identifying optimal diets to prevent persistent diarrhea. Multidisciplinary research into the epidemiology, host response, etiology, and treatment of persistent diarrhea is needed.
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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.
Both Japanese Americans and non-Asian social workers must adopt new attitudes if human services needs of this minority are to be met effectively
In this extraordinary new text, an international array of scholars explore the enduring legacy of such social shocks as war, genocide, slavery, tyranny, crime, and disease. Among the cases addressed are - instances of genocide in Turkey, Cambodia, and Russia - the plight of the families of Holocaust survivors, atomic bomb survivors in Japan, and even the children of Nazis - the long-term effects associated with the Vietnam War and the war in Yugoslavia - and the psychology arising from the legacy of slavery in America.
This article reviews the American Psychological Association’s (APA) efforts in promoting human rights and social justice. Beginning with a historical review of the conceptualizations of human rights and social justice, the social challenges that have faced the United States over time are discussed in relation to the APA’s evolving mission and strategic initiatives enacted through its boards, committees, and directorates. From early efforts on the Board for Social and Ethical Responsibility in Psychology and the Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs to the establishment of the Public Interest Directorate, the APA’s efforts to address these human rights and social justice challenges through its task force reports, guidelines, and policies are described. Specifically, issues related to diversity and underrepresentation of minority group members and perspective within the APA, as well as women’s issues (prochoice, violence against women, sexualization of young girls, human trafficking) were central to these efforts. These minority groups included racial and ethnic minority groups; immigrants and refugees; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer individuals; and those with disabilities. Later attention shifted to broader social justice challenges within a public health perspective, such as AIDS, obesity, and violence. Also included is a brief discussion of the Hoffman Report. The article ends with a discussion of future directions for the APA’s efforts related to human rights and social justice related to health disparities, violent extremism, social inequality, migration, cultural and racial diversity, and an evidence-based approach to programming.
The 5th interviewee for the Hearing Our Elders series is Rod Kawakami, J.D. His reparations work during the 1980s on behalf of Gordon Hirabayashi, an American citizen of Japanese descent, for a civil rights violation alleged to have occurred 40 years earlier serves as the environmental backdrop for this compelling story of courage, commitment, and tenacity in the face of government collusion. The forthcoming narrative will highlight a slice of the life of Mr. Hirabayashi, a symbol of protest against anti‐Japanese sentiments that surfaced after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This interview captured 6 overarching themes: (a) courage in the face of harsh and antagonistic social, political, and cultural environments; (b) enough is enough; (c) serendipity plays a part in launching historical events; (d) engage in creative problem‐solving strategies to address social injustice; (e) persevere until justice is served; and (f) follow one's commitment and passion. El 5° entrevistado en la serie Escuchar a Nuestros Mayores es Rod Kawakami, J.D. Su trabajo para lograr reparaciones durante los años 80 en nombre de Gordon Hirabayashi, un ciudadano estadounidense de origen japonés, por una violación de derechos civiles que supuestamente tuvo lugar 40 años antes sirve como el fondo ambiental de esta conmovedora historia de valor, compromiso y tenacidad ante la connivencia del gobierno. La expresiva narración destacará una parte de la vida del Sr. Hirabayashi, un símbolo de la protesta contra los sentimientos antijaponeses que surgieron tras el bombardeo de Pearl Harbor. Esta entrevista capturó seis temas fundamentales: (a) el valor ante un entorno cultural, político y social adverso y hostil; (b) ya basta; (c) la casualidad juega un papel en el desencadenamiento de hechos históricos; (d) resolver problemas de forma creativa para afrontar la injusticia social; (e) perseverar hasta que se haga justicia; y (f) seguir el propio sentido de compromiso y pasión.