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.
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.”
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.
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