Japanese Internment inflicted a grave injustice on Japanese immigrants and Japanese American citizens. At the same time, it resulted in the sudden loss of ethnic Japanese farmers, triggering a serious labor shortage in California, where vegetable production was an integral part of wartime food security. This article examines the economic impact of Japanese Internment on California agriculture as well as political debates over food security versus military necessity. Using state and federal government documents, records of congressional hearings, and the Japanese immigrant press in Los Angeles, this article demonstrates that Japanese Internment prompted voices sympathetic to ethnic Japanese farmers to question the necessity of the full-scale implementation of mass evacuation and also led to a growing demand for Mexican farmworkers who would come through the Bracero Program. Consideration of these processes helps us to better understand the Japanese Internment as not solely about race but about economics in wartime, multiethnic California.
Japanese Internment as an Agricultural Labor Crisis: Wartime Debates over Food Security versus Military Necessity
Yu Tokunaga is an assistant professor at the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University. After working as a journalist at the Asahi Shimbun and receiving his master’s degree from Kyoto University, he moved on to the doctoral program in history at the University of Southern California. In 2018, he earned a Ph.D. from USC with a dissertation entitled, “Making Transborder Los Angeles: Japanese and Mexican Immigration, Agriculture, and Labor Relations, 1924-1942.”
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Yu Tokunaga; Japanese Internment as an Agricultural Labor Crisis: Wartime Debates over Food Security versus Military Necessity. Southern California Quarterly 1 February 2019; 101 (1): 79–113. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/scq.2019.101.1.79
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