Fall 2020 - HIST 447W D100

The Nikkei Experience in North America (4)

Class Number: 4197

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Wed, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • 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. In this seminar, we will trace 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. Written assignments emphasize the development of writing skills.


  • Participation (both synchronous and asynchronous) 20%
  • Readings Presentation (synchronous) 10%
  • Topic Proposal and Research Plan 15%
  • First draft of Paper 20%
  • Final Paper 35%


Most SFU courses will be offered online this fall to protect the health of all members of our community. Enrollment in this course acknowledges that remote study entails different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of receiving feedback than is the case for in-person classes. Given that this is a discussion-based seminar, access to a computer, microphone, and webcam will be a necessary part of engaging one another in conversation during our weekly SFU Zoom sessions. If you are not based in the same time zone as SFU, please consider the time differential  in the time zone where you are located in determining whether you can fit this course into your schedule. Note that academic honesty and integrity remain as important to the quality of your education and your degree at this time as at any other.



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

Joy Kogawa, Obasan (various editions) or Gently to Nagasaki (Caitlin Press, 2016)*

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

Assigned articles are available through Canvas or SFU Library databases. The SFU Library does not have digital copies of the two books marked with an asterisk (*) but inexpensive paperback copies and digital editions are available through various online booksellers.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).