Masculinity in Japanese American Incarceration Camps

Reading Materials

Lawson Inada, (1992). “The Legend of Lost Boy,” “The Legend of Bad Boy,” “My Father and Myself Facing the Sun,” in Legends From Camp: Poems (Coffee House Press: Minneapolis).

Marita Sturken, (1997). “Absent Images of Memory: Remembering and Reenacting the Japanese American Internment,” positions: east asia cultures critique, 5(3): 687-707.

Mire Koikari, (2010). “‘Japanese Eyes, American Heart’ Politics of Race, Nation, and Masculinity in Japanese American Veterans’ WWII Narratives,” Men and Masculinities, 12(5): 547-564.

Discussion Questions

How did performances of masculinity shift inside internment camps?

What can this tell us about the historical relationship between race, incarceration, and masculinity in the United States? 

How did changes in generational roles, language abilities and age hierarchies contribute to a shift in gender performances? How does Inada represent this in his poetry? 

How did nationalism(s) shape Japanese American masculinity and, vice versa, how did Japanese American men wield their masculinity in order to participate in nationalism?

Thinking back to last month’s readings on African-American women in postwar Japan, do we think that national belonging meant the same thing to Japanese-American men as it did to African-American women? Or did it signify something different? How might we understand these differences or similarities through the lens of race and gender? 

How might the very structure of the internment camp alter modes of “belonging” more generally, beyond nationality?