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Re-locating Japanese Canadian history : sugar beet farms as carceral sites in Alberta and Manitoba, February 1942-January 1943 Ketchell, Shelly D.


This thesis examines Alberta and Manitoba sugar beet farms as carceral sites for displaced Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Previous literature has focused on the relocation of Japanese Canadians but has not addressed the many distinct sites that marked the boundaries of incarceration for Japanese Canadians. By exploring issues of citizenship and history, this thesis examines the many ways that regulation was imposed on Japanese Canadians by state and extra-state organizations and individuals. This subject was explored using critical discourse analysis of the Calgary Herald and the Winnipeg Free Press for a twelve month period beginning February 1, 1942, two months prior to the announcement of the Sugar Beet Programme and ending January 31, 1943, as original beet contracts covered only the 1942 crop year. My analysis follows two major themes: sugar beet farms as carceral sites and the use of citizenship narratives to both legitimize and erase Japanese Canadian labour. Utilizing Fbucault's notion of 'carceral', I show how disciplinary strategies were used to strip Japanese Canadians of their social, economic and political citizenship. While Japanese Canadians were never formally incarcerated, I argue that the term carceral needs to be reworked in order to include losses of liberty that are not formally sanctioned. I examine newspaper reports regarding official state policy, local community responses, protests and individual letters to the editors, and conclude that, indeed, Japanese Canadians underwent surveillance, supervision, constraint and coercion, all markers of incarceration. Citizenship discourses were a crucial tool of both state and non-state agencies. Further, 'whiteness' was central to these discourses. Citizenship discourses such as patriotism and duty were directed at 'white' citizens to encourage their acceptance of Japanese Canadian relocation. Further, these same discourses were used to recruit a volunteer 'white' labour force. However, despite the significant contributions of Japanese Canadians to this wartime industry, never were these types of discursive rewards or the subsequent material benefits offered to them. Further, the voices of Japanese Canadians were also silenced by the media. Thus, Japanese Canadians became invisible and silent workers who could claim no voice and thus, no membership in the nation.

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