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Muller Launches Podcast on Japanese Americans Imprisoned in WWII

September 6, 2017
School of Law

UNC law professor and national expert on Japanese American internment camps Eric Muller has launched a podcast series called “Scapegoat Cities,” which tells the true stories of Japanese Americans imprisoned in camps during World War II. It can be found on iTunes and other podcast sites.

“The stories are not of major earth-shattering events and they are not the experiences of prominent people,” says Muller, who serves as Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor of Law in Jurisprudence and Ethics at UNC School of Law, in an interview with UNC Press. “They are, rather, ordinary events in the lives of ordinary people. But each of the vignettes, in its own quiet way, reveals something about the nature of what people who are singled out because of their race had to endure.”

Muller discovered the stories through decades of researching historical archives and interviewing former internees.

The series’ launch coincides with the 75th anniversary of the opening of Japanese American camps in 1942 and includes two episodes. “The Desert Was His Home” follows an elderly Japanese man, twice widowed, who is uprooted with his son from their California home and sent to a camp in southern Arizona. After his son leaves the camp for Montana, the man vanishes. The second episode, “The Irrepressible Moe Yonemura,” follows a popular UCLA student who was sent to an internment camp, where he became one of the most influential people in the imprisoned community.

Stories of people imprisoned by their own government because of their ancestry are relevant today given the national conversation about policies that would single out people based on race, religion or national origin.

“Injustice may be directed at groups, but it happens to individuals,” says Muller. “Before we make the mistake of launching new programs that single people out on the theory that they are risky or dangerous or undesirable simply because they belong to a particular religious group or come from a particular place, we need to remind ourselves of the real harms that such programs cause in the lives of real people. Perhaps such stories might lead us to think twice before acting.”

Muller is the editor of “Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II” (UNC Press, 2012). Each podcast episode will feature an illustrative photograph. Listeners are eligible for a chance to win a copy of the book by leaving a review on iTunes.

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