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

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San Francisco J-Town’s redevelopment-era transformation

My first visit to San Francisco’s Japantown occurred in May 1974. It came about when I, along with two colleagues in the Japanese American Project of the Oral History Program at California State University, Fullerton, Betty Mitson and Ron Larson, journeyed to the City by the Bay to conduct tape-recorded interviews with the prominent Communist couple Karl Yoneda (1906-1999) and Elaine Black Yoneda (1906-1988). After interviewing them for two days, the Yonedas kindly invited us to be their dinner guests in Japantown at a restaurant located in the spectacular Japanese Cultural and Trade Center. Its opening nearly six years earlier …

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A ‘community study’ of Minidoka

During the May 1995 symposium that Mike Mackey organized in Powell, Wyoming on the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans at the nearby Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Mackey toured Bob Sims (1936-2015) and me around Powell. One topic we three non-Nikkei historians of the Japanese American wartime incarceration (all beholden to Roger Daniels) discussed on that occasion was our common burning desire to write a narrative history of a particular War Relocation Authority-administered concentration camp: Mackey of Heart Mountain, me of Manzanar in California, and Sims of Minidoka in Idaho.

Only Mackey’s dream came true when, in 2000, he published his …

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Inmates’ historical narratives for the layperson

Back in 1980, very little had been written about the World War II imprisonment experience of more than 5,500 Japanese American aliens (Issei) within the hodgepodge of 24 U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Army concentration camps as against what some 120,000 aliens and Nisei/Sansei citizens of Japanese ancestry underwent in the 10 War Relocation Authority-administered concentration camps. Accordingly, the former confinement sites were often carelessly dismissed as “those other camps.”

During the succeeding 40 years, a profusion of studies — the most comprehensive of which was Tetsuden Kashima’s Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II (2003) …

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Bridging Historical Traditions

In recent years historians have increasingly moved away from writing about the history of a single nation state, so-called mononational history, to writing an innovative variety of international history known as transnational history. Unlike traditional international history, which focused on the formal relations between two nation-states, this new form of historical inquiry seeks instead to illuminate how the events and developments that occurred within two countries overlapped and interpenetrated one another. Unfortunately, such an approach has been at a discount in Asian American and Japanese American historical scholarship. Nonetheless, one brilliant practitioner of these historical subfields, Eiichiro Azuma of the …

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Nisei is propelled to share firsthand accounts of camp

In 2019, Paramount released the biopic feature film on British rock singer Elton John entitled Rocketman. Sam Mihara’s slender and well-written autobiographical book, Blindsided, also showcases the life of a rocket man. It, too, could have been titled Rocketman. After all, upon completing his undergraduate and graduate engineering degrees at the University of California, Berkeley and UCLA, Mihara enjoyed a distinguished 42-year career at Boeing as a rocket scientist.

Then, 14 years after his 1997 retirement, he forged a new career, one which saw him rocketing around the entire country giving talks about mass incarceration in the …

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