Remembering ‘The English’ in Four ‘Memory Moment’ Portraits: Navigating Anti-Japanese Discrimination and Postcolonial Ambiguity in Mid-Twentieth Century Alberta, Canada
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This article explores anti-Japanese racial discrimination in the mid-twentieth century as it was experienced in everyday life between the 1940s to 1960s. Drawing on oral history interviews with nisei (“second generation”) individuals, it presents four ‘memory moment’ portraits to consider the transformation of anti-Japanese discrimination, whose colonial mechanisms during the Second World War gave way to make employment, education – and later, intimate – opportunities commonplace, even as “micro-aggressive” forms of racism powerfully if subtly continued. Central to understanding how remembering narrators perceived discrimination is “The English.” Emergent from memories of painful engagements with real individuals, ‘The English” were a stereotype whose ambiguous indeterminacy could spark opportunities at a time when the transformation of Canada and Japanese Canadians’ place within it were in a state of flux. The ‘postcolonial ambiguity’ that the four ‘memory moment’ portraits explore is not solely a characteristic of the past. Rather, the ‘memory moment’ portraits describe instances of remembering in close detail to recall them as performative acts animated by the remembering narrator’s desire to script their histories, and share them. These are also quantum moments in which past and present are straddled, sparking a potent conjuncture of history and memory.
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