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Muller Organizes Roundtable for World War II-Era Japanese American Incarceration History Scholars

November 15, 2016
School of Law

Scholars of World War II-era Japanese American incarceration history congregated in Seattle, Washington, for a roundtable event on Oct. 27.

Eric Muller, Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, worked with Densho, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and preserving the history of incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II, to host leading scholars for an opportunity to talk about their work and meet in person with their peers.

The roundtable included presentations of scholars’ current research as well as open discussions about the field of studying Japanese American incarceration history while considering terminology, community engagement with the field, how scholarship will change as incarceration survivors pass away and expansion of studies beyond the United States.

“My motivation in organizing the roundtable was that there is no single academic conference where the scholars of Japanese American internment can actually get together to read each other’s work, discuss new directions in the field of study and new archival resources, and just generally have the crucial opportunity to talk, agree and disagree that are the lifeblood of a healthy area of study,” says Muller.

Event attendees were comprised of various notable incarceration scholars, including Karen Inouye of the University of Indiana, Heidi Kim of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Lon Kurashige of the University of Southern California, Greg Robinson of l’Université du Québec À Montréal and Alice Yang of the University of California Santa Cruz as well as Muller and Densho Content Director Brian Niiya.

“Many of us work more or less in isolation and don’t have colleagues with whom we can discuss our work,” Niiya says. “The discussions we had were energizing, and I returned to work with a renewed sense of purpose. I’m certain that others feel the same way.”

“The roundtable exceeded my expectations,” says Muller. “Each of the participants got very helpful feedback on articles and books they are working on, the group had several opportunities to discuss challenging issues in the area of study, and several people had their first opportunity to meet each other in person. I was elated after the meeting, and eager to work on finding resources to support this as an annual gathering.”

Densho and Muller hope to host a scholar roundtable discussion regularly as a way to encourage growth of the field as well as collaboration among leading scholars.

Muller will speak Tuesday, Dec. 13, at a Chapel Hill screening of George Takei’s Broadway musical about Japanese internment, Allegiance. The lecture is sponsored by the UNC Program in the Humanities.

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