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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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“Manzanar, the Eyes of the World Are upon You”

“Manzanar, the Eyes of the World Are upon You”

Internee Performance and Archival Ambivalence

(p.120) Chapter 4 “Manzanar, the Eyes of the World Are upon You”
The Spectacle of Japanese American Trauma

Emily Roxworthy

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter explores the self-conscious construction of Japanese American identities and the internment experience in the internee-run Manzanar Free Press, which epitomized the camp newspapers independently published in each of the ten relocation centers. In the face of political spectacularization and racist media slander, internee journalists drew attention to a “spectacle-archive,” recording the ambivalent scrutiny imposed upon them from all sides. At the same time, internees staged intercultural performing arts festivals that defied the U.S. government’s mono-Americanist assimilation policy, which pitted second-generation Nisei against their “Japanesey” Issei parents and criminalized displays of Japanese culture. For internee audiences these intercultural performances made visible the contradictions of American racial performativity. Unfortunately, the fact that this performed resistance lives on mainly through embodied memory has meant that progressive narratives of America’s triumph over adversity—epitomized by the U.S. National Park Service’s celebration of internees’ festivity at Manzanar National Historic Site—have appropriated only the “model minority” interpretation of camp performing arts as rehearsals for assimilation and accommodationist endorsements of U.S. policy.

Keywords:   Japanese American identity, internment camps, Manzanar Free Press, internee journalists, intercultural performing arts, racial performativity

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