A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement in North America

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Overview

The confinement of some 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, often called the Japanese American internment, has been described as the worst official civil rights violation of modern U. S. history. Greg Robinson not only offers a bold new understanding of these events but also studies them within a larger time frame and from a transnational perspective. Drawing on newly discovered material, Robinson provides a backstory of confinement that reveals for the first time the extent of the American government's surveillance of Japanese communities in the years leading up to war and the construction of what officials termed "concentration camps" for enemy aliens. He also considers the aftermath of confinement, including the place of Japanese Americans in postwar civil rights struggles, the long movement by former camp inmates for redress, and the continuing role of the camps as touchstones for nationwide commemoration and debate. Most remarkably, A Tragedy of Democracy is the first book to analyze official policy toward West Coast Japanese Americans within a North American context. Robinson studies confinement on the mainland alongside events in wartime Hawaii, where fears of Japanese Americans justified Army dictatorship, suspension of the Constitution, and the imposition of military tribunals. He similarly reads the treatment of Japanese Americans against Canada's confinement of 22,000 citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry from British Columbia. A Tragedy of Democracy recounts the expulsion of almost 5,000 Japanese from Mexico's Pacific Coast and the poignant story of the Japanese Latin Americans who were kidnapped from their homes and interned in the United States. Approaching Japanese confinement as a continental and international phenomenon, Robinson offers a truly kaleidoscopic understanding of its genesis and outcomes.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Nichi Bei Times - Wayne Maeda

Robinson deftly merges the Pacific Rim experience into one coherent magnum opus.

The Japan Times - Jeff Kingston

A superb history about one of the more shameful chapters in U.S. history.

Times Literary Supplement - Jonathan Mirsky

[A] memorable... revealing book.

Reviews in History - Rachel Pistol

A Tragedy of Democracy serves as a timely reminder of how badly things can get out of control in times of war.

Journal of American Ethnic History - Daryl J. Maeda

In examining the mistreatment of ethnic Japanese Americans and Canadians as a tragedy of democracy, Greg Robinson has produced a triumph of narrative synthesis, one that will stand as the definitive work of its generation.

Choice

Robinson has clearly mastered his subject, and this book provides a clear, comprehensive account, including facts both well known and obscure.... Highly recommended.

The Japan Times
A superb history about one of the more shameful chapters in U.S. history.

— Jeff Kingston

Times Literary Supplement
[A] memorable... revealing book.

— Jonathan Mirsky

Choice Magazine

Robinson has clearly mastered his subject, and this book provides a clear, comprehensive account, including facts both well known and obscure.... Highly recommended.

Choice

Robinson has clearly mastered his subject, and this book provides a clear, comprehensive account, including facts both well known and obscure.... Highly recommended.

Reviews in History
A Tragedy of Democracy serves as a timely reminder of how badly things can get out of control in times of war.

— Rachel Pistol

Journal of American Ethnic History
In examining the mistreatment of ethnic Japanese Americans and Canadians as a tragedy of democracy, Greg Robinson has produced a triumph of narrative synthesis, one that will stand as the definitive work of its generation.

— Daryl J. Maeda

Nichi Bei Times

tour de force

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231129237
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 12/17/2010
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Greg Robinson, a native of New York City, is associate professor of history at l'Université du Québec à Montréal and author of By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans.

Columbia University Press

Greg Robinson, a native of New York City, is associate professor of history at l'Université du Québec à Montréal and author of By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

A Note on TerminologyIntroduction1. Background to Confinement2. The Decision to Remove Ethnic Japanese from the West Coast3. Removal from the West Coast and Control of Ethnic Japanese Outside4. The Camp Experience5. Military Service and Legal Challenges6. The End of Confinement and the Postwar Readjustment of Issei and Nisei7. Redress and the Bitter HeritageNotesAcknowledgmentsIndex

Columbia University Press

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