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The Spectacle of Japanese American TraumaRacial Performativity and World War II$
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Emily Roxworthy

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780824832209

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824832209.001.0001

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Performative Citizenship and Anti-Japanese Melodrama

Performative Citizenship and Anti-Japanese Melodrama

The Mass Media Construction of Home Front Nationalism

(p.100) Chapter 3 Performative Citizenship and Anti-Japanese Melodrama
The Spectacle of Japanese American Trauma

Emily Roxworthy

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter reconstructs the patriotic pageantry that the Hearst media empire staged in its newspaper pages and on city streets across the United States and argues that these pageants downplayed the coercive spectacularity of their stagings by showcasing the myth of performative citizenship. It demonstrates how William Randolph Hearst, as a metonym for the centralized power and influence of media magnates in this era, staged his own patriotic spectacles so as to exclude Japanese Americans from such assertions of loyalty to the United States and reiterate instead the other’s theatrical duplicity. The interplay between the myth of performative citizenship and the spectacularization of Japanese suspiciousness—a dual movement defined as racial performativity—yielded a repetitive melodrama in the Hearst pages throughout the six months in which the military evacuated Japanese Americans from the West Coast. The chapter shows how Hearst’s wartime coverage of the West Coast’s so-called Japanese problem punctuated his five decades of anti-Asian propaganda and deployed melodramatic film techniques gleaned from Hearst’s Pathé studio in order to offer a compelling narrative in favor of the internment of Japanese Americans. Once the internment was under way, Hearst’s pages constructed the evacuation as a benign field trip for Japanese Americans, a farcical spectacle that insisted upon the playfulness of U.S. internment camps, in contrast to the racist seriousness of Nazi concentration camps abroad. Such coverage obscured the internment’s violent import and traumatized Japanese Americans by compelling them to “miss” the event of their own disenfranchisement.

Keywords:   Japanese Americans, internment, racial performativity, performative citizenship, William Randolph Hearst

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