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Artifacts of Loss

Crafting Survival in Japanese American Concentration Camps

Jane E. Dusselier

Publication Year: 2008

In Artifacts of Loss, Jane E. Dusselier looks at the lives of Japanese American internees through the lens of their art.Dusselier urges her readers to consider these often overlooked folk crafts as meaningful political statements which are significant as material forms of protest and as representations of loss.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xi


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pp. xiii-xiv

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Chapter 1: Visual Accounts of Loss

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pp. 1-13

Testifying before the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians on August 4, 1981, U.S. senator Sam Hayakawa described life in World War II Japanese American concentrations camps as “troublefree and relatively happy.”1 Established by the U.S. Congress, the commission had been charged with examining the application of Executive Order 9066, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, and recommending...

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Chapter 2: Remaking Inside Places

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pp. 14-50

By joining the need to create places of survival with practices of making art, many imprisoned Japanese Americans recuperated a portable sense of place. Some internees looked to the materiality of their lives to produce liberative practices. Hopes for generating even very limited degrees of comfort through the creation of art helped many camp crafters to improve the material conditions of their lives. By reworking inside places, ...

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Chapter 3: Re-territorializing Outside Spaces

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pp. 51-87

Perhaps more dramatic than interior changes to internee living quarters and shared gathering places was the rearticulation of outside living spaces. Internees re-territorialized the camps, a process of altering hostile and unfamiliar landscapes into arenas of identity articulation in which differences are declared and subjectivities enacted.1 Through this process of re-territorialization, imprisoned Japanese Americans became...

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Chapter 4: Making Connections

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pp. 88-124

Many imprisoned Japanese Americans used art as a way of making and sustaining connections among themselves and with people outside the camps. Such a framework complicates the idea of community, which is often rooted in creating structures of sameness, homogeneity, and exclusionary thought. Although the idea of community sometimes allows us to freeze and study moments of cultural and social solidarity, we are often...

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Chapter 5: Mental Landscapes of Survival

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pp. 125-153

Just as internees enhanced their chances of survival by employing art to create more livable physical places, they also linked crafting with solace to remake emotional, psychic, and mental landscapes of survival. For internees, art was a coping mechanism, and they combated depression by keeping their hands and minds busy. But imprisoned Japanese Americans also created an understanding of mental survival that joined...

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Chapter 6: Contemporary Legacies of Loss

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pp. 154-165

As this book concludes, I urge readers to think about art created in Japanese American concentration camps with five ideas. First is the function and purposes of this work for internees, a historical view grounded in the realities of everyday life and imprisonment. Second is the idea of loss, which is critical for moving camp-made art into the present and future instead of understanding these artifacts as belonging solely...


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pp. 167-196


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pp. 197-200

About the Author

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p. 201

E-ISBN-13: 9780813546421
E-ISBN-10: 0813546427
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813544076
Print-ISBN-10: 0813544076

Page Count: 218
Illustrations: 53 illustrations
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 318240463
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Artifacts of Loss

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Japanese American decorative arts.
  • Japanese Americans -- Material culture.
  • Japanese Americans -- Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945 -- Psychological aspects.
  • Concentration camps -- United States -- Psychological aspects.
  • Concentration camp inmates as artists -- United States.
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