2008 National Conference » Events

Words Matter: Language and the World War II Japanese American Experience

George Takei, Actor

David Hays, Archivist, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries
James Hirabayashi, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University
Warren Tsuneishi

Topic: Basic Introduction
Date: Saturday, July 5, 2008
Time: 10:00 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.
Location: Capitol 5 & 6, 4th Floor

During World War II Japanese Americans were the victims of words whose meanings were at variance with the phenomena they described (e.g., “evacuation,” “relocation,” “reception centers,” and “self-government”). Such euphemisms have continued to muddy the meaning of the World War II Japanese American experience, thus proving that words matter greatly. Japanese words also mattered a great deal after 1941. They were employed to good effect in the war against Japan and in the American Occupation of Japan, as Nikkei and non-Nikkei learned Japanese in military language schools. This panel of knowledgeable scholars, moderated by a Nikkei well regarded for precision of thought and language, consider these developments from an experiential, historical, and archival perspective.

Articles written by two of the panelists and related to this session are available on-line:
- "'Concentration Camp' or 'Relocation Center' - What’s in a Name?" by James Hirabayashi
- "Words at War: The Sensei of the US Navy Japanese Language School At the University of Colorado, 1942-1946" by David Hays

JANM_EnduringCommunities_20080705-words-matter.mp3 (12.3 MB)