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Constructing the Enemy

Empathy/Antipathy in U.S. Literature and Law

Rajini Srikanth

Publication Year: 2012

In her engaging book, Constructing the Enemy, Rajini Srikanth probes the concept of empathy, attempting to understand its different types and how it is—or isn't—generated and maintained in specific circumstances.

Using literary texts to illuminate issues of power and discussions of law, Srikanth focuses on two case studies— the internment of Japanese citizens and Japanese Americans in World War II, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the detainment of Muslim Americans and individuals from various nations in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Through primary documents and interviews that reveal why and how lawyers become involved in defending those who have been designated “enemies,” Srikanth explores the complex conditions under which engaged citizenship emerges. Constructing the Enemy probes the seductive promise of legal discourse and analyzes the emergence and manifestation of empathy in lawyers and other concerned citizens and the wider consequences of this empathy on the institutions that regulate our lives.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix

I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the anonymous reviewers who read the manuscript exactingly and offered invaluable suggestions that strengthened its theoretical foundations and to the lawyers who agreed to be interviewed about their pro bono defense work for Guantánamo Bay detainees. I cannot...

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Introduction: The Landscape of Empathy

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pp. 1-40

This book presents and charts the fraught terrain of empathy—in U.S. literature and law—specifically as it relates to “the enemy” at two historical moments: the Japanese Americans after the December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Muslim men captured and detained in various locations...

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1. Literary Imagination and American Empathy

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pp. 41-72

Empathy is a relationally imaginative approach to living that underscores interdependence—whether of individuals, communities, or nations—and has at its foundation the call to imagine our lives always in the context of similar and dissimilar others. A crucial aspect of this relational imagining is...

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2. Deserving Empathy?: Renouncing American Citizenship

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pp. 73-103

In the short period between December 18, 1944, and mid-January 1945, several thousand—5,589—U.S. citizens of Japanese descent renounced their citizenship. Most of them were among the internee population at the Tule Lake internment facility in Newell, California, which had by this time become...

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3. Hierarchies of Horror, Levels of Abuse: Empathy for the Internees

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pp. 104-134

Emiko Omori, director of the documentary film Rabbit in the Moon (1999) on the internment experience of her family (her parents, herself, and her older sister), offers in voice-over narration one reason for the reluctance of the Japanese American community to talk about its wartime experience in the...

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4. Guantánamo: Where Lawyers Connect with the “Worst of the Worst”

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pp. 135-165

The location is Guantánamo Bay. The detainee, lawyer, paralegal, and translator form a quartet. This meeting, inside an interview/interrogation room, is unusual, because it results in the announcement of happy news. The detainee Adel, a former Saudi Arabian police officer who was traveling...

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Conclusion: Prognosis: The Future of Empathy in the United States

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pp. 166-171

On September 22, 2010, Eddie Daniels, antiapartheid activist and fellow prisoner on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, spoke at the University of Massachusetts Boston about his experience under apartheid and the circumstances that led him to join the resistance movement and...


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pp. 173-183


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pp. 185-197


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pp. 199-205

E-ISBN-13: 9781439903254
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439903247

Page Count: 220
Publication Year: 2012