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Professor Named To Fill Endowed UCLA Chair On Japanese Internment



After a year-long search, the Asian American Studies Center and Department at the University of California, Los Angeles has appointed Dr. Lane Ryo Hirabayashi as the first George and Sakaye Aratani Professor of the Japanese American Internment, Redress and Community. The endowed chair is the first and only of its kind in U.S. higher education to address the historical legacy of the Japanese-American internment during World War II.

Dr. Don Nakanishi, the director of the center, says the endowed chair was established to support the teaching, research and public activities of whichever scholar holds the position. The chair holder is expected to study the World War II incarceration of 120,000 Japanese-Americans, their postwar adjustment and their efforts to attain redress and a national apology.

Los Angeles residents George and Sakaye Aratani, long-time supporters of the center, established the chair in the hope that increased knowledge of the internment will prevent similar acts in the future. The Aratanis are second-generation Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II. George Aratani is the founder and former CEO of Mikasa and Kenwood electronics.

“It’s really an honor and a thrill to be named to the Aratani chair. I’ve had a long association with UCLA and it’s a great honor to join the faculty there,” says Hirayabashi, who is leaving the faculty at the UC- Riverside to join UCLA.

Dr. Franklin Odo, the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Asian Pacific American program in Washington, D.C., says Hirayabashi is a highly credible selection to fill what represents a groundbreaking position in Asian American studies. Although the topic of Japanese-American internment has been a popular area of study, it remains a rich and largely untapped field, says Odo. 

“Hirayabashi has done important work on Japanese-American internment and he has also looked at other groups in ethnic studies,” he says.   

Hirayabashi’s family has played a significant role in the postwar reparations movement and in academia. His uncle, Gordon Hirayabashi, was a principal plaintiff in 1943’s Hirabayashi v. United States U.S. Supreme Court cases challenging the legality of the internment. Lane Ryo Hirayabashi’s father, Dr. James Hirabayashi, became the first dean of the School of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University, and was an original member of the Japanese American Planning Group at the university, which designed the first curriculum in Japanese American Studies.

Hirayabashi earned a doctorate in sociocultural anthropology from UC-Berkeley, and has worked as a faculty member at San Francisco State University, the University of Colorado and UC-Riverside.

— By Ronald Roach


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