York Prof Pens Book on Internment Impact on JC Women
by Mel Tsuji
The newest addition to Japanese Canadian literature has come from Professor Mona Oikawa, of York University in Toronto.
Her 459-page book, Cartographies of Violence, was launched on November 2 in Vancouver, but she gave a sneak preview of her book at the annual meeting of the of the National Association of Japanese Canadians in Toronto in September.
NAJC delegates sat transfixed as Professor Oikawa related what she discovered when she interviewed 11 JC women and their 10 daughters about the 1942 internment and its effects after.
“It examines what women re-member of the expulsion, displacements, dispossessions, incarcerations, forced labour and the separation of families, friends and communities,” she says.
She gives full credit to authors Ken Adachi (The Enemy That Never Was, 1976) and Ann Sunahara (The Politics of Racism, 1981) for examining the causes and reasons for the expulsion of JCs from British Columbia.
But Professor Oikawa says her book takes JC historical analysis a step further. “I concentrate on some of its effects through an analysis of memories of women who were expelled from the coast and of their daughters.”
She also theorizes on the “silence” and “power” of the political, economic and social establishment of the time that made possible the racism that propelled the internment of JCs.
“While white people may not think of themselves as racist, they still participate in the rules and practices that sustain a racial social order and from which they benefit,” she writes.
“The racialization of Japanese Canadians as an enemy ‘race’ served to normalize the identity of a Canadian citizen as white. The web of power authorized through the War Measures Act enabled the making of white bourgeois subjects who were deemed lawful and the subordination of Japanese Canadian subjects who were without the protection of the law,” she says.