Jonathan van Harmelen

Jonathan van Harmelen is currently a PhD student in history at UC Santa Cruz specializing in the history of Japanese-American incarceration. He holds a BA in history and French from Pomona College, and has completed an MA from Georgetown University. From 2015 - 2018, he previously worked for the National Museum of American History as an intern and researcher.

Updated October 2019

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Eugene Rostow’s Japanese American articles: A Reconsideration - Part 1

In the annals of civil rights, a special place should be reserved for Eugene Rostow. In 1945, even as Japanese Americans remained confined in camps by official order, Rostow, then a young law professor at Yale University, published a pair of articles that criticized their wartime treatment. In his first article, “The Japanese-American Cases - A Disaster,” published in the Yale Law Journal in mid-1945, Rostow presented a powerfully-reasoned critique of removal and incarceration as America’s “worst wartime mistake,” and refuted the official justifications offered. He followed this with an article in the popular magazine Harper’s in September 1945 ...

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Dentistry in Camp

The late Hiroshi Kashiwagi’s short play Laughter and False Teeth remains a staple of Asian American Theatre. In an interview with Emiko Omori in her landmark film Rabbit in the Moon, Kashiwagi explained the real-life background of the piece in the experience of his mother at the time of mass removal:

“she had to go to camp without teeth. And she was only, as I say, about forty. And she had to go like this all the time. [Covers mouth with hand] And it must have been miserable for her. God, she never got over this hiding her mouth ...

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Findings from a small town archive

If you go to the heart of downtown Arroyo Grande, you will find tucked away in a small house the South County Historical Society. Stored in the house are thousands of documents and other artifacts chronicling the town’s century-and-a-half existence and the lives of its inhabitants. For instance, among the documents in the house is a pair of check registers belonging to the former Chief of Police, Fred Norton. Yet rather than being a record of payments, however, each page in these ledgers has scribbled on it in pencil the name of a Japanese American household in Arroyo Grande ...

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Giotta Fuyo Tajiri — An Artist's Voyage

In June 2019, Discover Nikkei published an article of mine on the Nikkei community in the Netherlands and on popular reactions there to the Redress Movement. In it, I covered the life and work of Shinkichi Tajiri, one of the most prominent modern sculptors in the Netherlands and brother of Pacific Citizen editor Larry Tajiri. Thanks to the influence of my friend and mentor Greg Robinson, I have become fascinated with the life and work of the far-flung Tajiri family (read Greg's article on Shinkichi Tajiri here). After putting together that article, I had the chance to interview Giotta ...

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An Activist’s dilemma: the life of Katsuma Mukaeda

For many of the issei interned by the Justice Department during World War II, their years in confinement posed serious questions of loyalty and identity. Many had once strongly identified with the old country, and had worked to forge what Eiichiro Azuma has identified as a “shin-nippon,” or new Japan, in the New World. Yet their decades of separation from their Japanese homeland, and the arrival of a new Nisei generation during the 1930s, led many to rethink their allegiance. The New World was their new home, despite the institutionalized racism they encountered in the United States, and most did ...

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