Imaging Japanese America: The Visual Construction of Citizenship, Nation, and the Body

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As we have been reminded by the renewed acceptance of racial profiling, and the detention and deportation of hundreds of immigrants of Arab and Muslim descent on unknown charges following September 11, in times of national crisis we take refuge in the visual construction of citizenship in order to imagine ourselves as part of a larger, cohesive national American community.

Beginning with another moment of national historical trauma—December 7, 1941 and the subsequent internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans—Imaging Japanese America unearths stunning and seldom seen photographs of Japanese Americans by the likes of Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and Toyo Mitatake. In turn, Elena Tajima Creef examines the perspective from inside, as visualized by Mine Okubo's Maus-like dramatic cartoon and by films made by Asian Americans about the internment experience. She then traces the ways in which contemporary representations of Japanese Americans in popular culture are inflected by the politics of historical memory from World War II. Creef closes with a look at the representation of the multiracial Japanese American body at the turn of the millennium.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Creef (women's studies, Wellesley Coll.) investigates how the popular images of Americans of Japanese ancestry were formed by their World War II incarceration and relocation into camps and how the images derived from this act of history still greatly influence the ways Japanese Americans are categorized and perceived in popular culture. She begins by analyzing the camp photographs of Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Toyo Miyatake and the sketches of Mine Okubo. She then discusses Hollywood's representation of Japanese Americans in recent movies and concludes with a case study contrasting how the media portrayed Japanese American figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and Japanese figure skater Midori Ito. Unfortunately, the book spans too great an intellectual landscape and touches too lightly on many facets that need further elucidating. If this book is meant to be an introduction, we can anticipate greater works to come from this scholar. Recommended for academic libraries.-Glenn Masuchika, Rockwell Collins Information Ctr., Cedar Rapids, IA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
”In engaging and lucid prose, each chapter moves through sensitive and nuanced analyses of a carefully chosen juxtaposition of biographies of individual artists and writers, cultural productions, academic texts, institutional practices and discourses, and material artifacts.”

-Feminist Studies

"An astute and lucid study of visual representations of Japanese Americans and an important original work for understanding American history in the second half of the twentieth century. Creef elegantly reads the myriad interdisciplinary contexts in which dynamics of race, gender, class, and nation frame Japanese Americans as foreign or the same, alien or national, while revealing the hidden costs such representations extract from individuals and communities."

-Shirley Geok-lin Lim,University of California, Santa Barbara

"Imaging Japanese America examines myriad genres of visual and linguistic representation in order to understand the historical and contemporary 'imaging' of Japanese Americans. It is both an artful writing project and an exemplary scholarly work within the field of visual culture studies. Readers will appreciate the interdisciplinary methodology, the rich detailed analysis, and Creef's powerful voice. A joy to read—one learns something new at every turn."

-Kent A. Ono,University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"[Creef] examines myriad genres of visual and linguistic representation in order to understand the historical and contemporary 'imaging' of Japanese Americans."

-Kent A. Ono,University of Illinois

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814716212
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 9/10/2012
  • Pages: 245
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Elena Tajima Creef is Associate Professor of Women's Studies at Wellesley College.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Carving Japanese American Memory into Place 1
1 The Representation of the Japanese American Body in the Documentary Photography of Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Toyo Miyatake 13
2 Beyond the Camera and between the Words
3 The Gendering of Historical Trauma in Wartime Films and the Disciplining of the Japanese American Body 93
4 Museums, Memory, and Manzanar
5 Another Lesson in "How to Tell Your Friends Apart from the Japs"
Epilogue: Imag(in)ing the Multiracial Japanese American Body at the Turn of the Millennium 173
Notes 195
Bibliography 229
Index 243
About the Author 276
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