chapter  4
24 Pages

Contested “Frontier” and “Pioneers” in Writings about Japanese American Concentration Camps


David Harvey’s argument about the “intertwinings of social and ecological projects in daily practices as well as in the realms of ideology, representation, and esthetics” relates to wartime government defi nitions for the mass incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans in ten concentration camps located in remote areas and deserts of the United States. 3 Those barbedwire-enclosed spaces, each holding 7,000 to 18,000 persons of Japanese ancestry in a square mile guarded by armed military, were defi ned by the camp administration, The War Relocation Authority (WRA), as “pioneer communities,” and those incarcerated there were called “colonists.” In fact, the fi rst Director of the WRA, Milton Eisenhower, mandated the defi nitions of “pioneer communities” and “relocation centers” for the camps. 4 The Japanese Americans sent to the camps were supposed to believe in and reinforce the offi cial defi nitions of the camps, which were a social and political project about race and nation, as well as nature and the environment. The World War II U.S. concentration camps for people of Japanese ancestry are contested sites, as demonstrated by competing narratives of offi cial history and counter-memory.