Reinventing Racial Forms: Japanese America Internment and the Case of Estelle Ishigo in Days of Waiting

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While the mass internment of Japanese Americans in World War II has highlighted the Asian exclusionism and racial persecution in the United States, this paper aims not simply to reassert an Asian American politics against racism but to find in the process and aftermath of Japanese American internment an important sociopolitical arena for our critical meditation on and creative imagination of race relations in the U.S. Probing into Asian Americans’ intermediary position in the conventional black-white racial dyad, the first section of this paper draws on Colleen Lye’s idea of “racial form.” Instead of conceiving race as determined by inherent biological features or indicating transhistorical entities, Lye proposes to read race as “form” (which is constituted by active social relations) and privileges the formal and stylistic creativity of literary and cultural texts to invent racial forms. The second and third sections of this paper move to Japanese American internment and study the case of Estelle Ishigo in Steven Okazaki’s documentary Days of Waiting (1990). Attending to Ishigo’s cross-racial life story, my reading not only explores the changeable contours of racial categorization in the context of the internment but also reveals the inadequacy of the “whites vs. Japanese Americans” critical model in excavating the cross-racial dialectics evoked by Days of Waiting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-108
Number of pages30
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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