Unexpected Findings: Reflecting on My Research and a School-Year Gone

Writing and analysis have never been my strong suit, and I have always struggled with these two important skills. However, to my surprise, this research project, while difficult, has not been as daunting of a task as I first thought it would be. In fact, I think I enjoyed this research project more than any of the other essay assignments throughout this school year.

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Brian Hayashi’s book:  Democratizing the Enemy

One of the main things I have learned through this project is that researching something you are interested in makes all the difference. I found it easier to go about research and analysis because I genuinely wanted to learn more about my topic, Japanese American draft resistance and agency during World War II. Also, my central claim, that Japanese American draft resisters created their own agency, is somewhat unique, and barely any scholars argue that Japanese Americans had agency during the period of their internment. I think the originality of my argument made it more interesting to learn about because it became a guessing game as to whether a new secondary source would make claims that were similar to my own. After reading over many articles and chapters of books, I only found one source, a book, Democratizing the Enemy by Brian Hayashi, that made similar claims to the ones I was making in my paper. Most of the secondary sources I found supported the idea that Japanese Americans were placed in an unfair position where they had little opportunity for choice.

My biggest worry for the project was self-contradiction. I designed my argument in three parts. I first argued Japanese Americans had limited freedom and were presented with choices that were not choices at all. They were forced to choose between “the better of two evils.” I then argued Japanese Americans draft resisters created their own agency through political activism. I worried that by arguing Japanese Americans created their own agency, I would invalidate my claim that Japanese Americans had little freedom and limited agency. However, I soon realized it was their feeling limited agency that encouraged the draft resisters to act. My argument has not changed from the previously explained layout, and I am now satisfied with the way my paper has turned out.

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War: The theme of Humanities Core the past three years

The research project I began five weeks ago marks the end of my time as a Humanities Core student. I began this school year struggling to write and formulate my ideas in a coherent and clear fashion. I still struggle with essays, however this course has definitely helped to improve my writing and analysis skills.

But Humanities Core has taught me so much more than just writing skills. I began the quarter skeptical about the topic of “war.” I did not understand how we would be able to focus on war for an entire school year without the course becoming repetitive. However, this class has been anything but repetitive, every topic we discussed uncovered more ideas through deeper analysis. Through this course, I have learned the true scope of war and the countless ways people have tried to make sense of war such as through poetry, literature, and artwork. This course has also exposed me to topics that were extremely uncomfortable such as torture, rape in the military, and unnecessary violence during military campaigns. Topics such as these, while painful to learn about, have ultimately expanded my knowledge, and will allow me to take a more well informed stance with regards to these issues. 

While I will not be continuing this blog in the future, I am thankful for the experiences I have gained writing in this different and less formal style. Blogging has allowed me to take a more personal stance with respect to the issues we discussed in lecture and seminar, and has become a rather enjoyable assignment. I thought I would regret taking Humanities Core when I began the class. However, as I reflect back on what I have learned, I realize I have gained invaluable skills and knowledge that I am sure is relevant to my future.


Works Cited

“Democratizing the Enemy: The Japanese American Internment.” 2004. Illustration. Princeton University Press. Web. 1 June 2016.

Hayashi, Brian Masaru. Democratizing the Enemy: The Japanese American Internment. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004. Print.

Roberts, Matt. “War.” n.d. Graphic design. UCI Libraries. Web. 1 June 2016.

A Difficult Decision

At the beginning of Humanities Core, we were told we would do a culminating research project on a topic of our choice during our last quarter of the class. I remember being scared then, but I was even more terrified at the beginning of week 5. Everything became real when we had to choose our paper topics.

The process of choosing a paper topic was difficult, because the very open prompt provided by the Humanities Core curriculum only required that we analyze an artifact. The hardest part was finding something I was interested in, and narrowing the topic down into something that could be feasibly done in 5 weeks.

Initially, I wanted to write my paper on the manipulative language U.S. government documents used during World War II to place limitations on Japanese American citizens. However, after further exploration, I realized the topic was quite narrow and other scholars had done not much research on the topic. I knew I wanted to do research on the loyalty questionnaire, a survey issued to interned Japanese Americans to determine their loyalty to the U.S. during World War II, but I didn’t know how to turn that topic into a ten-page paper. On one of my trips to the library, I found a book called, Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience. It contained a testimony from Frank Emi, where he discussed his experience protesting the draft of interned Japanese Americans and his efforts to form an organization called the Fair Play Committee (FPC) within the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp. The goal of the FPC was to encourage draft resistance and protest the loyalty questionnaire. Frank Emi’s work led me to expand my topic from the just loyalty questionnaire to Japanese American draft resistance at the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp. The project proposal I submitted said I wanted to research the reactions of internees at Heart Mountain to the most controversial questions on the questionnaire, questions 27 and 28, and how they affected the agency of the Japanese Americans.


Buried in books during research.

          After beginning my research, I began to realize the topic was too narrow, and I had only found one secondary source that was specific enough to provide insight on the Heart Mountain camp in particular. This led me to broaden my topic to Japanese American draft resistance in general rather than in one specific camp. My professor often reminded us to be open with the direction of our research and draw conclusions from our findings, rather than shape our research to a preconceived idea. When I began research, I thought I would find that Japanese Americans had more agency than most scholars contend. But I soon noticed nearly every source that discussed draft resistance, also discussed the Japanese Americans that volunteered to serve in the military in all Japanese American regiments. I though it would be better to do a comparison between the agency of the draft resisters and the agency of Japanese Americans who volunteered for the military or agreed to be drafted. My new hypothesis was and still is “those that protested the loyalty questionnaire and draft created their own agency and left a greater impact than those who followed traditional perceptions of Japanese American loyalty.”

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A new topic: comparing Frank Emi’s and resisters like him (left) with the all-Japanese American 442nd Regiment (right).


In reflecting on the process of choosing my topic and beginning research, I have become more thankful my professor told us that it’s ok for your hypothesis to change as you research more. I think my claim is stronger now because I modified it as a result of my findings. By comparing the agencies of two groups, I can better explain which group had more agency and a greater influence on society as a result of their actions.

Works Cited

Abe, Frank. “Frank Emi.” 1944. Photograph. Densho Encyclopedia. Web. 30 May 2016.

Emi, Frank Seishi. “Draft Resisters at Heart Mountain.” Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience. Ed. Lawson Fusao Inada. Salt Lake City: Heyday Books, 2000. 313-323. Print.

“Honolulu Chamber of Commerce Farewell Ceremony for Hawaii 442nd RCT soldiers.” 1943. Photograph. 442nd Veterans Club. Web. 30 May 2016.

O’Brien, Liam. “How To Read Books Faster.”2015. Photograph. Melville House. Web. 30 May 2016


Exploring New Fields

Before two weeks ago, I had never heard of the term or field of literary journalism. While I had heard of literature, which I associated with written works, and journalism, which I associated with news and reporting, I had never seen the two words combined. However, at the beginning of this quarter, my professor, Dr. Burke introduced us to this area of study through her lectures and examples of her work and research.

art of interviewing

Literary journalism and the interview process was unclear to me.

To further immerse us in this field, our first essay project of the quarter is to write a journalistic story portraying the way a specific person has been affected by war. When I first told my mom about this project, we both immediately agreed my uncle, a Marine veteran who served in the first Operation Desert Storm, was my best choice as an interview subject. We believed this not only because of his first hand combat experience, but also because his playful personality and love to tell stories leading me to believe he would make a very fun and interesting to interviewee.

The process of preparing for the interview was nothing like I expected. I did not realize the amount of research journalists must put in even before interviewing their subjects. To write good and relevant interview questions, it was extremely helpful to research more about my uncle and the conditions surrounding his war experience. For example, I researched information about the First Gulf War and Desert Storm to gain a better understanding of the general circumstances of the world. However, I also researched smaller and more specific areas such as information about the boot camp he attended, the role of infantrymen, and the layout of a battalion. This information not only helped me to write questions that better pertained to my uncle’s situation, but it also allowed me to better understand my uncle when he spoke using military terms or about specific instances of the war. Researching before hand ultimately relieved pressure when it came time for the actual interview.


Interviewing my uncle felt more like an “interrogation” than a conversation.

Although I felt prepared when I began my interview, it did not go at all as planned. I expected my uncle to be his usual funny and amusing self, but rather he quickly closed up. At first, in talking about boot camp, the conversation came easily. However, as soon as I began questioning him about combat, he tended to answer in short one or two sentence responses and did not go into much detail about the conditions he faced while deployed. Entering the interview, I realized that combat experience is often a very sensitive subject so I tried to tailor my questions away from direct references to killing and death. I wanted to allow my uncle to talk about the things he felt comfortable talking about. But even with these types of questions, I could still sense his discomfort with the topic. His body was turned away from me with only his head turned in my direction to occasionally make eye contact.

While I am not quite done with my literary journalism project and still need to construct my uncle’s story, I am already humbled by this experience. Through this process I have not only gained a better understanding of the great amount work that goes into a journalism piece, but I also have gained a much deeper knowledge of my uncle’s background, far beyond anything I knew prior. In this case, body language and actions were much more informative than his words, and taught me more about the way his past still affects him than any story he could have told.

Works Cited

“Interview Between Businessmen.” Photograph. The Works. 3 November 2015. Web. 10 April 2016.

“Man Being Interrogated.” Photograph. G.I. Jobs.  24 September 2014. Web. 10 April 2016.

Winter Blog 5: Is War Everywhere?

Recently in my Humanities Core lecture, our professor addressed an interesting topic, the connection between war and sports. Despite the obvious similarities, I had never thought of football as a war, but rather only as a form of exercise and entertainment. In reality, both war and football involve two entities pitted against each other in a conflict regulated by rules usually resulting in either win or loss (Szalay). Upon making this connection, I began to think more about occurrences in our society that have become similar to waging war. I realized that references to war are everywhere in society, even in our favorite childhood games. My family has banned Monopoly from family gatherings due to the tension, conflicts and yelling fits that arise when we are pitted against each other, like in war. Politics and government elections also came to mind as representative of war, a very relevant topic considering it is an election year. I found it interesting how we even refer to the struggle for a nomination as a political campaign, a term also commonly used for military attacks.


The merging of football and war, gallant charges and attacks.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner, canceled his scheduled appearance at a rally in Chicago due to violent protests occurring outside the venue. Trump supporters chanted, “Trump” while others chanted, “Bernie” in dissent (Madhani). I quickly noticed not just the merging of politics with war, but the merging of politics with sport. I began to see a connection between people’s cheers for their preferred candidate and fans cheering for a sports team. People chanted names, while at the same time pitting themselves against supporters of the opposing candidates (sometimes violently) as if they were two sides in a war. It seems to me politics has become more and more similar to total war. Nothing, not even information about the private lives of candidates, seem to be off limits as propaganda. I find it disquieting that Bill Clinton is running a subdued campaign for his wife, out of fear of putting her potential nomination in jeopardy (Fitzgerald).

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It is no longer a peaceful protest. Trump supporters and haters.

Government elections have also become extravagant, extended, political events, requiring great amounts of money for candidates to stay in the race. As a result, many candidates take donations from companies whose interests ultimately drive their campaigns. Throughout my humanities course, we have learned about the corruption of the military industrial complex and the idea profit motivated war. To me, the connections between politics and capital and politics and war are worrisome, because it seems as though politics has its own military industrial complex in the works. I fear that money and interests other than those of the people are corrupting our politics.

Because elected officials control the policies that will be implemented in the future, I feel it is important for us to realize the connection between politics, war, and money to make an educated decision when voting. Furthermore, war seems to be ever present in our lives, even outside of wartime. In my opinion, this could pose problems because these constant references to war may desensitize us to the idea and consequences of it.

Works Cited

Broome, Gerry. Protesters are Removed from Donald Trump’s Campaign Rally. 2016. Chicago Tribune. Web. 18 March 2016.

Fitzgerald, Thomas. “A subdued Bill Clinton campaigns for Hillary.” Philly.com. 6 January 2016. Web. 17 March 2016.

Madhani, Aamer and Steph Solis. “Donald Trump cancels Chicago rally after protesters, supporters clash.” USA Today. 12 March 2016. Web. 17 March 2016.

Scrimmage. 2015. Colorado State University Center for the Arts, Fort Collins. Colorado State University. Web. 18 March 2016.

Szalay, Michael. “Sport.” University of California, Irvine, Humanities Instructional Building 100, Irvine, CA. 10 March 2016.

Winter Blog 4: Dual Views of the Syrian Refugee Crisis

From the perspective of Harriet Jacobs:

I recently had the opportunity to fly to the region around the Mediterranean Sea. I first travelled to Greece and, after two flights, landed on the Greek island of Lesbos. After a day of rest, I decided to visit the eastern coast of the island, an emblem of freedom in the eyes of many, because this is where many refugees have been turning up as a result of the conflicts in the Middle East. Here, I found groups of exhausted men, women, and children struggling to get out of their lifeboats. Their clothing was faded by the harsh Mediterranean sun and salty air and tattered by the strong winds. Some looked extremely malnourished, weak, and miserable. Many were ill. Pneumonia was common due to the cold they endured and cholera from the lack of sanitation. Yet, surprising to me, all those that had just arrived wore a look of relief on their face. I knew they had a long journey ahead of them, and the conditions they faced at this new land were anything but celebration worthy.


Refugees taking a selfie to document their trek.

From Lesbos, I travelled to Lebanon, a country closer to the fighting taking place in Syria. The contrast between these refugees and the newly arrived refugees in Greece was drastic to say the least. These poor, pitiable people were living in established refugee camps and the hope of freedom seemed drained from them, and their eyes seemed to question their freedom in this new land. The living conditions were horrible, thirteen people crammed into a room built for two or three. Everywhere I looked there was poverty and suffering. There were multiple times when children ran up to me asking to buy their belongings because they needed money to feed their families. I also met a woman, Samira, who openly stated, “I want my final days to come” (Christian). This woman, in her suffering, did not understand that death would not fix anything; in death, she would selfishly leave her burdens to her children.


The reality for refugees.

When asked if I’d like the opportunity to visit the Syrian refugees, I gladly accepted because people of my race were once refugees fleeing the oppressive south. I am very thankful to all those who willingly helped the contrabands of the civil war and worked to improve their conditions at the camps where they stayed, and I feel as though I need to shed some light into the conditions of the Syrian refugees as I once did for my fellow African Americans. During my travels, I met many kids eager to learn and show off the skills they had once learned in school, some speaking to me in both Arabic and English. The desire of these children to learn was very evident in their demeanor and attitude. However, most of the children spent their time working to feed their family, rather focusing on education. If this continues to be the case, an entire generation of Syrians will be lost and left in the dark. Their lack of education will lead to the continuance of their oppression and will allow for the exploitation of their race. While you may not be able to directly help, consider supporting the movement to take in refugees and working toward their education. Education may be the difference between surviving in a new country and dying on the streets.

Reflecting on My Experience Writing from Jacobs’ Perspective:

Writing about the Syrian refugee crisis from Jacobs’ perspective was eye opening. In her writing, Jacobs takes an approach opposite of sentimentalism focusing on the cold, hard realities of the situation. In her work, “Life Among the Contrabands,” Jacobs focuses on the horrible conditions of contraband slaves, and sometimes even acts unsympathetic towards them despite being of the same oppressed race. For me, it was a challenge to take something as devastating as the Syrian refugee crisis and find ways to be critical of the crisis’ victims. However, in doing this, I have realized that just because someone is victimized does not mean they cannot work to change the reality of their situation. During Jacobs’ time, slaves could be oppressed and exploited due to their ignorance, and as a result, Jacobs seemingly scolds them in her work. While the circumstances of the Syrian refugees are different, and education may not fix the immediate problems they face, their status as refugees prevents their children from getting the education they need and deserve. I feel that if their children are not educated, the poor status of Syrians may be allowed to continue for generations to come, even after the refugee crisis ends.

Works Cited

Djurica, Marko. Smartphones are Cheap. Reuters. Web. 9 March 2016.

“Interview with a Syrian Refugee.” Oxfam. Oxfam, 25 January 2013. Web. 9 March 2016.

Jacobs, Harriet. “Life Among the Contrabands.”Humanities Core Course Guide and Reader. Ed. Carol Burke. Boston: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2013. 63-68. Print.

Muheisen, Muhammed. Syrian refugees on the Greek Island of Lesbos. 2015. The Guardian. Web. 9 March 2016.

“Syrian Refugees: Desperate just to go to school.”CNN. CNN, 2 March 2016. Web. 9 March 2016.


Winter Blog 3: Entertainment: The Desensitizer of Torture

Recently in my Humanities Core class, we learned about torture, what it means to be tortured, and the forms of torture taking place often without our knowledge. While I discussed slavery as a form of torture in my last blog post, I did not discuss how torture plays into our everyday lives, even though it often goes unnoticed. Before taking Humanities Core, I knew torture was a real occurrence, but I never understood the true implications of torture or when and where it might occur in the real world. Rather, my views were mediated by what the entertainment industry revealed through movies and television series, creating a sort of mystical view of the subject and distancing me from the true realities of this kind of abuse. While some of us may see through the haze the entertainment industry puts over our eyes, many of us, including myself, are still left with a distorted view of torture due to the way Hollywood depicts it.

In his first lecture on torture, Professor Lazo said, “Images desensitize us to torture,” however not just images, but depictions of torture in the media also desensitize us. One of my favorite television series, NCIS, usually contains an interrogation room scene, typical of many crime shows, in each episode. However, in the episode “Out of the Frying Pan,” the interrogation goes too far for my liking, and an innocent yet troubled boy, accused of killing his father, is tortured. The boy is left in an interrogation room surrounded by images of the father he hates, and is forced to watch reruns of home videos; he is also confronted with the alleged murder weapon, an ax, which is thrown down on the interrogation table onto a picture of his father. This experience causes the boy severe mental pain and suffering by a public official, which from my perspective seems inhumane and cruel, and would also be considered torture under the UN Torture Convention. However, this instance is not treated as torture, but rather as “enhanced interrogation” where the “good guys,” the investigators, are seeking justice for the death of the boy’s father. This torture scene tricked me into believing the investigators are “good” because they are seeking justice and portrays them as the heroes. However, now that I have a better understanding of “torturetainment,” I personally believe it is horrible to portray “enhanced interrogation” as something that is tolerable during investigations because torture should never be used as a form of entertainment. 


Interrogation room or torture chamber?

In my opinion, the TV show not only desensitizes us by justifying torture because it is being used as a means for a greater good, justice, it also desensitizes us by blinding us from the reality of torture. As the audience, we know the show is fictional, which separates us from the reality of torture. We do not view the scene as real, so we are not as disgusted by its implications, allowing us to avoid confronting torture’s hard truths.

While most people have not experienced torture, I have realized references to torture are heavily present in our lives. The word torture has even become a part of our everyday speech. There are times when I walk out of class and complain, “That was torture,” but it wasn’t, nor was it anything remotely close to the true horrors that take place when someone is tortured. I feel the media’s use of torture scenes and our “everyday” uses of the word have desensitized us to the true nature of the word, which implies the infliction of “severe pain and suffering” (UN Convention Against Torture). There are real instances of torture that are occurring or have occurred around the world, such as the torture of innocent prisoners of Middle Eastern descent at Guantanamo Bay. I have come to the conclusion that if we continue to allow the media to mediate our understanding of torture, we will continue to be mystified and will never begin to perceive the huge violations of human rights taking place.

Works Cited

gregbarblog. “Interrogation Room.” Photograph. gregbarblog, 23 April 2016. Web. 28 February 2016.

JosieFB. “NCIS 8.18 ‘Out of the Frying Pan’ Promo.” Video. YouTube. 16 March 2011. Web. 27 February 2016.

Lazo, Rodrigo. “Argentina’s Dirty War.” University of California, Irvine. Humanities Instructional Building 100, Irvine, California. 9 February 2016. Lecture.

United States. United Nations Headquarters. United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Punishment. New York: 1985. Print

Winter Blog 2: The Civil War and Torture


Weekly Contribution Box. 1840.

This image could work for the Essay Three prompt because it depicts the slaves as they were stereotyped by northerners, helpless, begging for assistance. However, it places the slave above his shackles, suggesting that the slave is better than his chains, despite them weighing him down.


Sergeant Henry F. Steward. 1863. Hand-colored ambrotype.

This image could be used for the image analysis in Essay Three because it depicts the African American in a much different position from many other images. This man is well dressed, and distinguished, as he stands up tall. It also implies that he is in a position that allows for his picture to be taken. However, his hat is tilted and there is a wheel under the column that is visible, perhaps telling that this photograph was not planned out as well as another might have been.


A Man Knows A Man. 1865. Wood engraving.

This image could be useful for Essay Three because on the surface it suggests that the two men can relate to each other because they both know the hardship of war, and even that they may even equal on some sort of level. However, their uniforms show their great difference in rank; the white man is a captain, while the black man is most likely a private.


Dark Artillery, or How to Make the Contrabands Useful. 1861. Wood Engraving.

This could be a useful image for the essay because it blatantly shows the degrading view of African Americans, that were only useful as “resources” and weapons for war in the opinion of this picture. The strange, almost scary facial expressions of the African Americans, as well as the exaggeration of other physical characteristics such as their feet and legs suggests their inhuman, animalistic qualities. This idea is also exaggerated by the posture and stance of the middle African American who seems to be jumping up like a child rather than standing tall like the soldiers.


The Gallant Charge of the Fifty Fourth Massachusetts (Colored) Regiment: On the Rebel Works at Fort Wagner, Morris Island near Charleston, July 18th 1863, and death of Colonel Robt. G Shaw. 1863.

This image is a possibility for the essay because the black soldiers in this image almost look animalistic and crazed, suggesting that they are inhuman or uncivilized, one soldier in the middle of the image even seems to be jumping into the crowd of enemies in the background. However, their faces may also be explained by the fact that the black men were very new to fighting, and may not have known how to react to this new situation.

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Untitled Watercolor painted by Henry Louis Stephens. 1863.

This image is another possibility for the essay because a black man is reading a newspaper called Presidential Proclamation, suggesting he is reading about the Emancipation Proclamation based on the year it was made. The background looks as though a fire is overtaking the room, suggesting the proclamation will cause great chaos and destruction of former institutions. This image implies the emancipation of slaves was a horrible decision, suggesting they should continue to be oppressed.

For my essay, I will be comparing the first and second images.

Torture and what defines torture has been a long disputed concept, not only for the United States, but for the entire world. In many cases, it refers to severe pain or suffering imposed upon someone as a means toward some end. However, this definition is very vague. Where do we draw the line between great discomfort, and pure agony in a person? Does torture only refer to physical pain, or can it refer to the mental degradation and scarring that may result from the imposed treatment?


Dark Artillery, or How to Make the Contrabands Useful. 1861. Wood Engraving.


Untitled Photograph of Nazi War Prisoner subjected to Altitude Experimentation. 1942.

The two images above represent disquieting periods of history when great prejudice and discrimination occurred. The image from Frank Leslie’s illustrated newspaper is a sketch, probably turned into a wood engraving for circulation, of contrabands being used along the front line of battle as cannons. The racist image not only subjects the African Americans to menial labor, but also turns them into things, a cannon to aid battle, rather than soldiers or even humans for that matter. The physical features of the contrabands are more similar to those of apes than those of human being. Their face is distorted with crazed eyes, a large mouth and protruding lips, making their profile look similar to a monkey’s. The length of their feet is exaggerated, along with the size of their butt and their protruding stomach. The image turns African Americans into animals that can be used as instruments of war. This image is obviously not a literal representation of African Americans, but it does suggest their low status in society, and the demeaning forms of work they were subjected to.

The second image represents a different medium, a photograph of a prisoner being used for high altitude experimentation during the Holocaust of World War II. Unlike the satirical image of contrabands, this photographs is a literal representation of the forms of inhumane activity occurring during the war. The man pictured lost consciousness and later died during a Nazi experiment to determine the effects of high altitude on humans similar to the conditions of pilot may experience. His body subjected extreme condition hangs from a pipe over him. His face relaxed in death contrasts his body position, which is stiff and unnatural. His arms are held at his side almost as if he had been attempting to escape his harness. The event depicted is torture by the UN definition of torture because a Nazi, a public official, inflicted severe physical pain that led to death as a result of discrimination (UN Convention Against Torture).

While both images represent forms of racial prejudice, their similarities do not seem to connect them on the topic of torture. However, the comparison of the Holocaust test subject and the African Americans allows for an association between the discrimination of African Americans and torture. Both images turn their subjects into “things.” The contrabands are turned into weapons and the dead man is turned into a test subject, like a lab rat. For the Holocaust victim, this transformation from a human being to a thing led him to be inflicted with severe physical pain, resulting in his treatment being defined as torture. For the African American victims, the jump to torturous treatment is less obvious. In the years before the Civil War, African Americans had been subjected to slavery, and treated as animals or lower beings. This treatment resulted extreme mental suffering especially for educated slaves such as Frederick Douglass. Douglass understood the wrongs of slavery and his natural rights at a young age. For him, this knowledge caused great suffering because he understood that he did not deserve to be a slave but could do nothing about it. His treatment would be defined as torture because he was inflicted severe mental suffering as a result of discrimination. While it may seem the suffering of African Americans was not severe, or at least not severe enough to be considered torture, one must consider the implications of slavery and discrimination. Slavery and discrimination conditioned African Americans to believe in the implications of slavery. In his narrative, Douglass refers to a good overseer as one who only punishes the slaves when they deserve it, implying that there are moments when slaves deserved punishment, when in reality, the entire institution is wrong (Douglass 56). This sort of conditioning numbed their suffering because they believed they deserved the treatment they received.

The definition of torture is vague, but for good reason. While it makes it hard to distinguish between torture and valid forms of punishment or interrogation, it also accounts for the wide range of activities that result in unwarranted pain and suffering in their victims.

Works Cited

A Man Knows a Man. 1865. Wood engraving. HarpWeek. Web. 18 January 2016.

Dark Artillery, or How to Make the Contrabands Useful. 1861. Wood engraving. Library of Congress, Washington D.C. The Library of Congress. Web. 18 January 2016.

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. New York: Penguin, 1982. Print.

The Gallant Charge of the Fifty Fourth Massachusetts (Colored) Regiment: On the Rebel Works at Fort Wagner, Morris Island near Charleston, July 18th 1863, and death of Colonel Robt. G. Shaw. 1863. Hand-colored lithograph. The John A. McAllister Collection.Web. 18 January 2016.

Nazi Medical Experiment. 1942. Photograph. National Archives and Records Administration, Maryland. Holocaust Encyclopedia. Web. 30 January 2016.

Sergeant Henry F. Steward. 1863. Hand-colored ambrotype. Massachusetts Historical Society. Web. 16 January 2016.

Stephens, Henry Louis. 1863. Watercolor. National Archives and Records Administration. Web. 18 January 2016.

Weekly Contribution Box. 1840. Boston Public Library. Web. 16 January 2016.


Winter Blog 1: Home Is Where the Heart Is

Home is where the heart is. It’s where my family is. It’s where I can relax, unwind, and reflect. It is my escape from the work, school, and the stress from the world. While each person is different, for many people, the home represents family, safety and escape. This image of home has its origins in the Civil War Era and with the rise of capitalism.

Before the war and the rise of capitalism, the home was a workplace and a place of productivity, as well as familial ties. Men were expected to build things while women were expected to sew, cook and tend to the house. However, during the war, men left their homes to fight on the front lines, breaking the home (Fahs). With the rise of capitalism, the home was broken once more, this time due to a new economic environment. Men began to work away from home. This change made the home a sanctuary, to escape a hard days work, rather than a place of productivity as it once was. While the rise of capitalism broke the home once more, the familial bond was not severed; men would still come home from work repairing the broken home home once more.


The Soldier’s Dream of Home. Lithograph from Currier and Ives (1861-1865)

Similarly, the broken home that resulted from the war was not entirely broken. In a lithograph from Currier and Ives created between 1861 and 1865. The studium, or basic story, of the picture is a soldier has fallen asleep by a fire at camp while reading letters from home. While he is asleep, he dreams of returning home to his wife and child. His ties to his family are not broken, he still thinks of them fondly. And his family’s ties to him are still strong as they continue to write him letters. However, this image was not only intended to depict a heartwarming image soldier longing for his family, it was also a piece of propaganda. The soldier who still thinks of his family and still has his ties from home, the war has not changed him drastically. This image was a way to assure men and their wives or mothers that war would not dramatically transform men into a killer, so men should enlist and women should allow their husbands and sons to enlist. But illustrations often have much more to say than what first meets the eye. A punctum is “something in the image that punctures all the preconceived notions”, and in this particular image, the punctum is the soldier’s dream (Berghof). While most of the image is in color, the dream is in black and white with similar patterns of shading to that of the border, making the dream appear to be apart of the background rather than at the forefront of the picture. It may even suggest a disconnection from his family and his home. Moreover, in the colored portion of the image, the dream seems to be surrounded by dark clouds of smoke giving it an eerie feeling. It is also being fed by the fire below, rather than the mind of the soldier. Since fire is a very destructive force, its presence suggests the destruction of his familial bonds rather than the continuity of them.

This image undoubtedly deals with the ideas relating to the home and family, and suggests the soldier is presently unchanged by the war, however it also displays a hint of uneasiness about the effects of the war on men and their values.

Works Cited

The Soldier’s Dream of Home. 1861-1865. Lithograph, hand color. Dertoit, Michigan. Print.

Berghof, Alice. “Discussion 3.” University of California, Irvine. Intercollegiate Athletics Building 131, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA. 12 January 2016. Seminar.

Fahs, Alice. “‘A Harvest of Death:’ The Civil War as a Crisis of Meaning.” University of California, Irvine. Humanities Instructional Building 100, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA. 12 January 2016. Lecture.

An Intangible War?

At the beginning of the quarter, my professor challenged me to ask humanistic research questions to inspire my writing. I began the year wanting to focus my blog on wars dealing with social injustice, however over the course of the quarter I have found that my real interest lies in the intangible aspects of war.

How do we define war? One definition leads us to perceive war as a physical conflict such as hand-to-hand combat, trench warfare, or bombings. However, a second definition is much broader, allowing war to be applied to many other instances. War can take on many other forms besides physical conflict. There can be a war for civil liberties and social justice, or a war within one’s conscious mind. The applications to war are seemingly endless, and rightfully so, due to its highly symbolic nature.

I began my blog with a post about why we go to war when we are destined to die. In Homer’s Iliad, Hector is at war literally as a soldier, but he is also at war figuratively. Torn between community and family or the heroic code, there is a war brewing inside of him. How does Hector’s social conditioning influence his indecisiveness over whether or not to go to war? How does social conditioning influence anyone’s decision to go to war? While Hector wants a community and family, he can never have them because he is an epic hero and must follow the heroic code. As a Hero, he is obligated to fight for the survival of his community and its values, so he gives up his place in his community entirely, and sacrifices his family in the process. My next post dealt with the unjust Japanese internment, and similarly, my fourth post dealt with the unjust stereotyping of communists, people of Middle Eastern descent, and the Muslim community. While a small minority of people in each of these groups may have been dangerous, there was, and is, still no reason to unfairly apply those stereotypes to all people. This form of stereotyping leads to prejudice and discrimination, problems that have plagued us throughout history. My hope is that people will eventually realize the horrible ways we are capable treating our fellow people, fight for a change, and declare a metaphoric war on social injustice.


An image of a protest during the Civil Rights Movement. (From Wikipedia)

As I continue blogging throughout this course, I hope to expand on the definition of war and address what qualifies as war since it encompasses so many different forms of conflict. War has shaped much of our history, whether it is literal war or wars of social injustice or an individual’s indecision. However, as time passes, we tend to forget the past or depict it in a different light, and this temporal difference affects how we view wars in the past, and maybe even how we act in the future. For example, while the outcome of the Civil War is now viewed in a positive light because it is associated with ending slavery, right after the war, many people were still skeptical, if not outright opposed, to the idea of slavery’s end. Considering our value system, I find it surprising that we haven’t had another movement like the abolishment of slavery or the Civil Right’s Movement, despite the great amount of prejudice that still exists.


Will we unite? (From NOVA)

How have the conditions changed to prevent us from rising up? In the civil rights movement, there was a reasonably large and specific group of people, the African Americans, who were facing discrimination, and because of their similarities, they were able to unite. Today, however, there seems to be more light being shed on injustice toward intersectional groups of marginalized people. Because these people all come from different backgrounds, it is more difficult to unite them under one specific issue.

Works Cited

Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1990. Print.

Izenberg, Oren. “The Poetics of the Iliad.” University of California, Irvine. Humanities Instructional Building, Irvine, CA. 8 October 2015. Lecture.





Acting on Reflections

The documentary, “Theater of War,” directed by John Walters, takes on the form of the highly disputed sub genre of essay film, which brings together many individual and overarching viewpoints to encourage the audience to form their own opinion about what they are watching. With this genre of film, it is likely that the piece will provoke different thoughts and associations for each individual, based on their past experiences or social conditioning. For me personally, the montages in the film that bring together many different scenes of protest as well as many different scenes of war were the most thought provoking. While watching it, I was amazed at how we allow history to continue to repeat itself generation after generation. It is easy for us to look back and judge the mistakes others have made, but it is much harder to look forward and prevent those mistakes from happening again.

In the essay film, Meryl Streep, who plays Mother Courage, explains why she wanted to act in the play Mother Courage and her Children. It wasn’t because of Kattrin’s bravery and kindness when she bangs on the roof to warn the people of the city of the incoming attack. It was because of the moment when Courage sings the lullaby over Kattrin’s body, a scene that Streep says seems to repeat itself over and over with each war that comes. Her interpretation of the scene almost implies the inevitability of war and the untimely death of a mother’s children. However, Brecht would have wanted Streep and the audience to understand that war and the conditions of the play are not inevitable if collective action is taken.

Brecht, a self proclaimed Marxist, was in the US at the time of the Second Red Scare and was asked to testify along with the Hollywood 10. During that time, the US citizens were scared of communism due to fear of Soviet relations and their influence. In this case, bad relations with the U.S.S.R. conditioned people to fear communism and communists, leading to the unlawful persecution and arrest of many people due to their political beliefs. More closely related to my generation is the 9/11 terrorist attack. After seeing this tragic event and watching two wars being fought in the Middle East over terrorism, my generation has been conditioned to fear people of Middle Eastern ethnicities, leading to the persecution of and prejudice towards those people. History repeated itself, just under different circumstances.

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Two different propaganda images, one from the time of the Red Scare and one from the current War on Terror. Will we continue to let history repeat itself? (From Patriot Act C and the Sleuth Journal)

Looking back, we see all the ways we acted on impulse and out of fear during the time of the Red Scare, and one would expect we would try to improve on our mistakes from the past. However, we continue to act out of fear and use racial profiling unjustly, often associating someone of Middle Eastern descent with terrorism. The problem is not that we are incapable of reflecting on our past mistakes; it is that we have yet to learn from them. As Brecht communicated through his play Mother Courage, we require collective action to make a change, and in this case it will take a wholly educated populous to understand the consequences of our rash actions to stop this endless cycle.

(Update Nov. 17 2015)


This is just one example of unjust stereotyping of the Islamic community. (From TheMuslimIssue)

Considering the content of this post, I think it is important for me to address the events of the past week as they pertain to the ideas presented. This past week was tragic, with both Paris and Beirut subjected to terrorist attacks. Paris experienced suicide bombing and execution style killing, while, similarly, Beirut experienced a suicide bombing attack. Over the weekend, my news feed on Facebook was bombarded by a seemingly endless string of posts about the two events, many showing remorse and sympathy for the two, however the occasional post was about fear or hatred of the Muslim community. While we have the right to fear the extremists that committed these cruel and horrible acts, expanding this fear to the entire Muslim population is unfair and unjust. Ironically, through unjust stereotyping of the Muslim community, we are only encouraging support of terrorist groups like Isis. The cycle feeds itself. I worry that this recent attack will bring rise to an anti-Muslim sentiment greater than before, and lead us to act rashly and persecute innocent people as happened in the time of the Red Scare and in Japanese Internment.

Also, for more information on the sub genre of the essay film, this video provides a good basic explanation.

Works Cited

Smith, John. “The Thirty Years’ War: The Movie. Transitions/Comparisons.” University of California, Irvine. Humanities Instructional Building 100, Irvine, CA. 3 November 2015. Lecture.

Theater of War. dir. John Walters. perf. Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Tony Kushner. Lorber Films, 2008. Film.