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Old 03-01-2004, 08:05 AM   #1
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America, Japan, WWII, and grad school

I thought I would post this here because I know there are some people who like WWII history and Japanese history here.

I have to come up with a topic for my 20,000-word modern history MA dissertation this week, and am at a complete loss as to what direction to take. The subject is supposed to be related to one of my modules, preferably, and I think I've narrowed it down to one: Asia-Pacific War and Modern Memory. The problem is that I have NEVER studied this area before (apart from military history on the Pacific front in WWII several years ago in undergrad), and I'm only four weeks into the module, so I still don't know a lot about the subject. I'm thinking about doing something on the interment of Japanese-Americans or racist propaganda/stereotypes of the Japanese in America during WWII, but I can't narrow it down further than that as I know so little about the subject. I feel so lost because I've never done a dissertation before (I've never even written an essay over 5,000 words) and my department isn't exactly the most organized or supportive. I'm going to talk to the professor in charge of the Asia-Pacific module tomorrow, but does anyone here who has knowledge of this area have any ideas? I need a topic that has enough English language sources that I can find in the UK since I don't have the money to travel to the US to do research. Also, any general dissertation advice? Thanks!
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Old 03-01-2004, 11:10 AM   #2
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This might be a good place to start looking. Though much of this site is San Francisco-centric, it provides an interesting glimpse of how the Japanese internment was viewed at the time. There's further resources at the bottom of the page.

http://www.sfmuseum.org/war/evactxt.html
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Old 03-01-2004, 11:37 AM   #3
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Just an idea, but you could compare the internment camps of the Japanese in the US to the internment camps the Japanese had for Americans and other foreigners in China and the Philippines.

The stereotypes/propaganda would also be interesting, but I just havent seen very much information on the subject (then again I never really researched that either).

I'll think about this and get back to you. (I have a few decent Japanese history books lying around here, I may have to crack them)
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Old 03-01-2004, 02:26 PM   #4
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grad school = meggie's WWIII
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Old 03-01-2004, 06:23 PM   #5
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Why did you pick something so unfamiliar to you? And so difficult to research from Nottingham?
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Old 03-01-2004, 08:34 PM   #6
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As a teacher I have used the site "Asia for Educators" for my high school students. You can find some good links for primary sources there. If you haven't totally committed to a topic yet I suggest researching the Japanese occupation of China prior to, and during WWII. It's facinating.
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Old 03-01-2004, 09:01 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by martha
Why did you pick something so unfamiliar to you? And so difficult to research from Nottingham?
We're severely limited in module choices, and since the MA is only one year long, I only have three optional modules (1960's Cultural and Social Change, Vichy France on Film, and the Asia-Pacific War and Modern Memory) and one required module (Theory and Evidence in History and the Social Sciences). The 1960's are a very difficult period because there is a LOT of writing about them, but a lot of crap and not as much scholarly work, and it's hard to find an original topic. Also, I don't think I could work well with the convenor for that module. Vichy France is interesting, but again, it's difficult to find an original topic, and there's also the issue of English-language sources, particularly primary sources, and I don't have the money to travel to Paris to do research. With the Asia-Pacific War, I have the American and British angles that I can take so there will (hopefully!) be enough primary and secondary sources in English and fairly accessible. The professor that I'm asking to surpervise my dissertation seems very nice and helpful and like someone I can work with (and hopefully she'll be willing to supervise it or I'll be back at square one).

The main problem is that I hadn't studied history before this in almost three years and never at this depth (dealing with historiographical issues and questions of memory, etc.), so there is nothing that I'm very familiar with apart from topics that I covered in essays and presentations last semester, and I can't repeat topics I covered in coursework in my dissertation. As for Nottingham, resources here are horrible (though it's supposed to be one of the best university libraries in the UK ), so whatever topic I decide to do, I'll have to do most of my research in London.
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Old 03-01-2004, 11:33 PM   #8
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OK!
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Old 03-02-2004, 04:57 AM   #9
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the only knowledge I have about this subject is gained from a Danielle Steele book that I read when I was 12 It was written from the perspective of a japanese family living in the USA during the war. [sarcasm] I am sure that it is a very historically accurate book [/sarcasm]
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Old 03-02-2004, 05:26 AM   #10
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My advice would be to do something on the fall of Hong Kong or Singapore, since they were British garrisons and so there were plenty of British and Dominion troops stationed there, which may make it easier to get some firsthand accounts. My guess is the Imperial War Museum would be of great help too if you chose to look at those cities and either the setups of the cities and their defences or the plight of the POWs after they fell to the Japanese. In terms of propaganda there's been plenty done on POW camps in those cities following the Japanese occupation, particularly on Changi in Singapore and the transportation of POWs to work on the Thai-Burma railway.
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Old 03-02-2004, 08:11 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by martha


OK!
Sorry, I didn't mean that to sound rude or anything.
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Old 03-02-2004, 10:18 AM   #12
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No! You weren't rude at all! I was responding to the overwhelmingness of your task.

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Old 03-02-2004, 12:07 PM   #13
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Okay, good. Damn paranoia!

I talked to the professor today and got some guidance. She said the Hong Kong/Singapore stuff oddly enough has little written on it other than issues regarding POWs, and I would prefer to concentrate on civilians.

SO, I will be doing my dissertation on the internment camps in the US, taking into account issues of race in the interwar period US and immigration policy (like the 1920's immigration laws regarding Asians and possibly comparing that with the Keep Australia White movement), and then also looking at how the internment has been represented in memorials and displays and the controversy surrounding those. I could also compare the US internment of Japanese Americans to the UK's internment of German Jews, but comparisons scare me a little bit, so I doubt I'll do that unless I'm really struggling to find info. I need to start doing a bibliography and some reading and then narrow it down and come up with a title. What REALLY terrifies me is that my department is really heavy on theory and historiography. So my dissertation needs to be very theoretical and focused on issues of memory and other things I don't understand.

I'm going to die.

Thanks for the advice.
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Old 03-02-2004, 03:47 PM   #14
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Hiya Meggie

I was gonna chime in by saying that I feel the subject of Interment camps in America would be an interesting read. But I see that you already chose it, so good call. I'm particulary interested in it since I'm part Japanese. Grandmother came to America couple of years after the war, but the distrust for Asians in America was still there.

If you are apprehensive about comparing one situation to another... how about you broadening it up a bit and include many situations involving conflicts with "outsiders" (i.e. Ireland/England, North/South Korea, Japan/Korea, etc.) how they treated their own citizens back home?

In anycase you WILL do just fine and survive.
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Old 03-02-2004, 07:16 PM   #15
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Come and visit me. You can stay here, and I'll take you to Manzanar and the Eastern California Museum in Independence. We'll stay at Ray's Den Motel, and then we'll take a side trip to The Tree and Death Valley.


Did I mention that I'm not kidding?
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