A. Carly BuxtonOct 26, 2022
Un-Thinking Collaboration: American Nisei in Transwar Japan
University of Hawaii Press 2022
Today I will be talking to Carly Buxton about her book Unthinking collaboration: American Nisei in transwar Japan, which came out this year  with the University of Hawaiʹi Press. Unthinking Collaboration uncovers the little-known history of Japanese Americans who spent World War II in Japan.
Japanese Americans who found themselves in Japan during the war, could not leave but also, unlike their compatriots, were not interned. But, to survive many had to serve the Japanese state and act as Japanese during the war. When the war ended these same people were mobilized again, but now in the service of the American occupation. Weaving archival data with oral histories, personal narratives, material culture, and fiction, Unthinking Collaboration emphasizes the heterogeneity of Japanese immigrant experiences, and sheds light on broader issues of identity, race, and performance of individuals growing up in a bicultural or multicultural context. By distancing “collaboration” from its default elision with moral judgment, and by incorporating contemporary findings from psychology and behavioral science about the power of the subconscious mind to influence human behavior, Carly Buxton offers an alternative approach to history—one that posits historical subjects as deeply embedded in the realities of their physical and discursive environment. Walking beside Nisei as they navigate their everyday lives in war time and post war Japan, readers are urged to “un-think” long-held assumptions about the actions and decisions of individuals as represented in history. Unthinking Collaboration is an ambitious historical study that relates to broader questions of race and trust, empire-building, World War II, and its legacy on both the Western and Pacific fronts, as well as the questions of loyalty, treason, assimilation, and collaboration.
Ran Zwigenberg is an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University.