Arthur A. Hansen

Art Hansen is Professor Emeritus of History and Asian American Studies at California State University, Fullerton, where he retired in 2008 as the director of the Center for Oral and Public History.  Between 2001 and 2005, he served as Senior Historian at the Japanese American National Museum.

Updated October 2009

culture en

A historical survey of Asian Americans in the Heartland

In 2009, I published an article about Japanese Americans in the Interior West, a field earlier pioneered by two Arizona State University doctoral students, Eric Walz and Andrew Russell. So I was naturally pleased when the Nichi Bei Weekly invited me to review the present book. It, in effect, shifts the venue of the same general topic east to the Midwestern state of Michigan (particularly Detroit’s Tri-County area: Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties) and broadens its concern from Japanese Americans to Asian Americans. The first book to tackle this subject, “Asian Americans in Michigan,” as observed elsewhere by one ...

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identity en

Groundbreaking fieldwork a guidebook to Nikkei journey of (further) discovery

In spite of being involved in researching and writing about Japanese American history for 45 years, I have only been to Japan once, and then for but a week in the Tokyo-Yokohama area. My purpose was to participate in a conference of the Japan Oral History Association. I was accompanied to this gathering at Tokyo’s Rikkyo University by a Japan-born, U.S.-educated colleague at the Japanese American National Museum; she had served an extended professorship at a Japanese university and was a notable specialist in both Japanese and Japanese American history.

Throughout the conference, I was chaperoned to ...

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community en

‘Historical portrait’ adeptly conveys Nikkei’s lifestory

One of my favorite songs by country singer Hank Williams, Jr. — whose political and social philosophy I revile — is “Family Tradition.” The book under review here falls into the same category as that particular record’s title, and does so in a very profound way. Indeed, it was precisely owing to family tradition that Naomi Shibata felt stirred to write Bend with the Wind in the first place, and which by her then doing so resulted in that tradition being significantly expanded and enriched.

In the spring of 1980, when I was a visiting professor of history at the San ...

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education en

Historian ‘illuminates’ JA history

In Kenji Taguma’s resplendent foreword to this latest of historian Greg Robinson’s cavalcade of exemplary volumes devoted to illuminating the Japanese American experience, he rightly observes that The Great Unknown is a work that “epitomizes the importance of the community press in preserving history.” Of course, had Taguma and his allied supporters within the Nichi Bei Foundation not labored so mightily and resourcefully to keep alive the most venerable of the Japanese American community newspapers, the columns underpinning Robinson’s book in all likelihood would never have been written. Now then, with this backdrop in place, let me ...

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education en

Changing Season: A Father, A Daughter, A Family Farm

In the mid-1980s, while researching the World War II incarceration experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry at the Gila River Relocation Center in south central Arizona, I discovered a brief yet very enlightening 1982 autobiographical volume on this subject by David Mas Masumoto. Entitled Distant Voices: A Sansei’s Journey to Gila River, it was self-published by the 28-year-old author-agriculturalist under the aegis of the Inaka Countryside Press in Del Rey, Calif. (20 miles south of Fresno). Five years later another book by Masumoto, bearing the same imprint, commanded my rapt attention: Country Voices: The Oral History of a Japanese ...

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