The Erasing Power of American Exceptionalism: Exclusion and Silence in the Official American High School Textbook History of the Japanese American Internment Open Access

VanderMeer, Nicole Catherine (2015)

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With this project I examine twelve of the most widely-used, contemporary high school history books in the United States in an investigation of textbook authors' coverage and portrayal of the Japanese American Internment against the metanarrative of "American Exceptionalism." I contend that authors of American high school history textbooks devote very little attention, critical examination, or emphasis to the history of the Japanese American Internment, erasing much of the history in four distinct ways: (1) engaging in the practice of "mentioning" in their accounts; (2) reducing the World War II story of Hawai'i to the attack on Pearl Harbor; (3) silencing Japanese American voices; and (4) rendering Internment camp experiences benign. The impacts of this pattern of erasure in American high school history textbooks significantly include the continued invisibility and marginalization of Asian American history and issues, as well as a broader lack of critical engagement with the legacy of the Japanese American Internment, especially in light of the treatment of Muslims and persons of Arab descent in the United States following 9/11.

Table of Contents

Introduction: the Authority of Textbooks in the Production of Historical Knowledge and the Continued Relevance of the Japanese American Internment 7

The Authority of Textbooks 7

Literature Review 15

Methodology 18

Precedent for My Analytical Framework 19

Overview of World War II on the Homefront in the Textbooks 20

"Mentioning" in Textbook Accounts of Japanese American Internment 22

Reducing the World War II History of Hawai'i to Pearl Harbor 30

Silencing Japanese American Voices 45

Rendering Internment Camp Experiences Benign 52

Conclusion 54

Bibliography 60

Japanese American Identity, Immigration, and Internment 60

High School History Textbooks 64

The Significance of Textbooks 65

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