The Discourse of Official Violence: Anti-Japanese North American Discourse and the American Internment Camps

Lynn Thiesmeyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Mainstream discourse about Japanese North Americans has been less thoroughly analysed than discourse towards more populous North American minorities. The racist nature of this discourse became obvious during the Second World War and the discourse about their incarceration, despite their being citizens, in internment camps. There are three types of data for this political discourse: (a) the official orders by the US President, the Secretary of War and the US regional Defense Commands; (b) the Congressional hearings to confirm the government decision on the need for internment through testimony by state officials and anti-Asian lobbies; and (c) the report on censorship of internment camp conditions which attempts to justify the censorship of information about Japanese North Americans. This paper shows how this discourse was primarily performative: what began as anti-Japanese North American rhetoric was soon codified as a national policy to remove Japanese North Americans from their homes and businesses and to silence more direct information from Japanese North Americans themselves. The discourse shows two main features: (1) the pragmatics of collusion, in which privately made government decisions are ‘confirmed’ through public discussion or hearings; and (2) the discourse of justification, in which overtly anti-democratic actions are both legalized and justified in the same discourse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-352
Number of pages34
JournalDiscourse & Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1995 Jul


  • Japanese (North) American
  • Nikkei
  • agency
  • anti-Asian
  • censorship
  • collusion
  • internment camps
  • justification
  • political discourse
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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