Spring 2017 - HIST 447W D100

The Nikkei Experience in North America (4)

Class Number: 3976

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 9:30 AM – 1:20 PM
    AQ 5014, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history.



Traces the historical experience of people of Japanese ancestry in the United States and Canada. Provides a comparative, transnational treatment of the historical conditions that created the impetus for immigration; exclusionary laws; the nature of prewar immigrant communities; and internment. Students with credit for HIST 485 or 486 under this topic may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


During the months following the outbreak of war between Japan and the United States in December 1941, American and Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry, regardless of age or whether they had continued ties to Japan, were forcibly removed from the coast by the governments of both Canada and the United States. Confined to detention camps located in the B.C. and U.S. interior, they were forbidden to return to the coast until after the war had ended – in Canada’s case, only in April 1949. Many of those who had immigrated to the United States and Canada during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries lost everything they had worked for during their years in the North American West.

This seminar traces the historical experience of people of Japanese ancestry in Canada and the United States. We will explore the historical conditions in Japan that triggered emigration to North America during the Meiji period; compare the conditions that these emigrants encountered in Canada and the United States after they arrived; and consider how their lives and those of their North American-born children were impacted by their wartime incarceration. We will also examine the race-based legal constraints Japanese immigrants faced in each country during the early decades of the twentieth century and ask to what extent the rationales put forward by each nation to justify its actions during World War II can be understood as an extension of prewar anti-Japanese law and policy. Students will use comparative and transnational methodologies to analyze parallels and differences in the way each nation constructed racial boundaries and assess the strategies developed by Japanese immigrants and consular officials in an effort to negotiate these divides. In-class and other assignments will emphasize the development of writing skills.


  • Participation 20%
  • Readings Presentation & Essay 20%
  • Written In-class Responses 20%
  • Primary Source Analysis 20%
  • Final Paper 20%



BC Studies, Special Issue on Nikkei History, Winter/Spring 2016/2017.

Roy Kiyooka, Mothertalk: Life Stories of Mary Kiyoshi Kiyooka (NeWest Press, 1997).

Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic (Anchor Books, 2011).

Takeo Ujo Nakano, Within the Barbed Wire Fence, 2nd ed.  (Lorimer, 2012).

Louis Fiset, ed., Imprisoned Apart: The World War II Correspondence of an Issei Couple (University of Washington Press, 1997).

Assigned articles and materials available through Canvas or SFU Library databases

Registrar Notes:

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