“Very Useful and Very Dangerous”

T. Fujitani

in Race for Empire

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780520262232
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950368 | DOI:
“Very Useful and Very Dangerous”

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This chapter traces the processes and contingencies by which the racist state's civil and military officers first determined that Japanese Americans should be excluded from military service, then by the fall of 1942 completely reversed this earlier decision, and in January 1943 began aggressively recruiting Japanese Americans to become soldiers. It focuses primarily on the question of soldiering, because this was the site through which not only the soldiers themselves but also the racialized communities that they represented passed most paradigmatically and dramatically from the outside to the inside of the national community. The complicity of the War Relocation Authority and the War Department in linking the recruitment drive for army volunteers to a general program to determine the loyalty of all adult internees, both male and female, calls attention to the overwhelming symbolic importance of the citizen-soldier as the normative citizen. The chapter pays considerable attention to how discussions and policies regarding Japanese American soldiering were always interlaced with the larger questions of how to govern the Japanese American population in general, the nation as a whole, and the world. As a consequence of these considerations, the regime would promise Japanese Americans the abundant benefits of citizenship while sending many of them off to die or to suffer injuries with a frequency out of all proportion to their numbers.

Keywords: racism; Japanese Americans; military service; racialized communities; army volunteers; citizenship; war regime

Chapter.  19930 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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