Concentration and Cooperation

in Concentration Camps on the Home Front

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780226354767
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226354774 | DOI:
Concentration and Cooperation

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This chapter tells the story of Mary Tsukamoto, a dutiful housewife who also managed service organizations and, of necessity, became a teacher in the concentration camps. It also argues that incarceration was utterly characteristic of American racial policy. In facing the issue of race prejudice many [Japanese American] commentators tended to portray racism in the United States as an anomaly, a misconception to be dispelled or the work of a few misguided agitators rather than a pervasive societal phenomenon. Such a view necessarily cast incarceration as unusual and un-American. It overlooked the reality that, on the one hand, the most un-American of practices within the camps were often the ones that made the camps most livable: anti-capitalist, collectivist, noncompetitive endeavors. On the other hand, some of the hallowed institutions of democracy—electoral politics, a free press—were among the most distorted and compromised of processes. One form of cooperation, a broad-based communal participation in ethical production, consumption, and community-building, proved satisfying to many; while another form, collaboration with administrators, proved tempting to a few—a path to greater power. Japanese Americans were left to wonder if success in America necessarily involved a self-serving, individualistic, cynical calculation of gain.

Keywords: Mary Tsukamoto; service organizations; teachers; concentration camps; incarceration; racial policy

Chapter.  11900 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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