Life at Heart Mountain: Networks and Power at a Japanese American Incarceration Camp
By Saara Kekki
October 8, 12:15 p.m.
Join Saara Kekki, Center of the West research fellow, for a free presentation on Tuesday, October 8 at 12:15 p.m. in the Center’s Coe Auditorium. Her talk is titled Life at Heart Mountain: Networks and Power at a Japanese American Incarceration Camp.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1942, the United States incarcerated (interned) 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two thirds of whom were US citizens. Half of the incarcerated people returned to the West Coast, while the rest were dispersed across the country through the government’s resettlement program. Incarceration remains a controversial subject in the Japanese American community, and while much has been written about the era, it is an unknown topic to much of the general public. At the same time, incarceration reverberates today both in the United States and in Europe in the treatment of immigrants from Mexico or the Middle East. In this talk, Kekki discusses using historical “big data” to study the networks of inmates at Heart Mountain.
Says, Kekki, “With its peak population of over 10,000 inmates, Heart Mountain was the third largest ‘town’ in Wyoming. I have used historical ‘big data’ to study the networks the inmates retained and created during their incarceration. Network analysis is particularly well suited to detecting intricacies of everyday life. There is great irony in coupling the words ‘town,’ ‘everyday life,’ and ‘incarceration’ but network analysis really brought that community to life for me. Indeed, the inmates were deprived of their civil rights, their living conditions were often sub-standard, and many suffered, especially mentally. At the same time, this barrack camp became a community, a hometown, where life went on. Marriages were formed and children were born. Schools were operational, and many inmates, especially women, were for the first time able to get a job that corresponded to their education and merits. This presentation examines the various forms of power at Heart Mountain, as well as the manifestation of ‘loyalty,’ ‘assimilation,’ and ‘resistance’ within the networks.”
About our speaker
Saara Kekki received her PhD in North American Studies from the University of Helsinki in 2019. In addition to Japanese American incarceration, her research interests lie in the history of immigration and migration.