Witnessing what we could carry : a critical reflection on performing Japanese American collective memory

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Masumoto, Nikiko Rose

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In the late 1970's Japanese Americans began organizing to demand redress from the United States government in both symbolic and material form; they asked for an apology and reparations. In 1981 a Congressional commission, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), was formed to investigate Japanese American Internment and give recommendations to Congress for further actions. The Commission held public hearings in Los Angeles, California and 9 other cities across the United States. More than 150 individuals gave testimony at the Los Angeles hearings alone. Many were Japanese Americans who had never spoken publicly about their experiences. On March 8, 2011, I performed a solo performance entitled What We Could Carry that wove together text and historical narratives from the archives of the Los Angeles redress hearings with auto-ethnographic interpretations of Japanese American memory. This written thesis is a reflection on the methods, theories, and implications of my performance. I locate my performance as scholarship within performance studies and place my work in conversation with other scholars such as Joseph Roach. In Chapter One I argue that Roach’s concept of surrogation can be extended to include embodied witnessing as a constitutive role in performing collective memory. In Chapter Two I document and analyze my research and creative processes as an embodied experience. Lastly, in Chapter Three I consider both successes and failures of my solo performance.



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