Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, University of Southern California

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2011
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Associate Professor, History, University of Southern California
Closing the Gates Again? Lessons from the US-Japan Immigration Crisis

In the current age of global migration immigrants are targets for harassment, discrimination, and violence. To make matters worse, debates about immigration restriction often exacerbate fears of foreigners as well as chauvinistic beliefs of native entitlement. Historians of the United States can play an important role in resolving these debates by providing comparisons from the first half of the 20th century, a time when immigration in this country was even more hotly contested than today. This research mines the history of America's exclusion of Japanese immigrants to provide two types of resources for overcoming present immigration conflicts. First is a detailed, sociological picture of past nativism that can be used to create educational programs targeting segments of the population at high-risk for anti-immigrant fears. The second resource highlights the best practices of transpacific actors whose innovative conceptions of race were instrumental for transforming the image of the Japanese from dreaded "yellow peril" to model Americans. How these actors spearheaded the decline and ultimate collapse of anti-Japanese nativism stands as an important case study for reducing current anxieties about immigration that are rising to dangerous levels throughout the world. In this way, lessons from the past can help Americans, and other peoples, analyze the risks involved in closing the gates to immigrants again. The goal of this research is to publish a book and to give public lectures on the exclusion of Japanese immigrants in the United States that will connect the fields of historical research and immigration policy analysis. Such a connection promises to make the study of the past more directly relevant for solving contemporary social problems, and, at the same time, to make the study of public policy more inclusive of case studies from the past.