Language and Dehumanization in Alaskan Japanese Internment Documents
During World War II, thousands of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the United States were sent to internment camps. At least 100 of these were Japanese Alaskans, who were removed from the Alaska territory when the US military designated Alaska a military zone. In order to coordinate internment policies, a number of government correspondences were produced by the Alaska territorial government and other authorities in Alaska communities. Although there have been numerous historical studies of the Japanese internment in the US during World War II, few have specifically studied the language of race and dehumanization used in Alaskan internment documents. I address this by analyzing a set of these documents for examples of language that dehumanizes Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans. I argue that authorities and other represented authors in the document set used dehumanizing language to help justify internment policies. Overall, this analysis provides a window into how the Japanese internment was carried out in Alaska and how it affected Alaskan communities and individuals and sheds light on how language can support and facilitate official acts of racial oppression.
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