This essay explores the hidden dimensions of same-sex intimacy and queer sexuality for Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. Queer accounts of Japanese American wartime history are rare because of the atypical structure of the incarceration camps, which organized inmates by family units, the prevalence of intergenerational narratives, and dominant themes of loyalty, innocence, and civility. Jiro Onuma, a gay immigrant imprisoned by the federal government at Topaz concentration camp in central Utah, worked in the prison mess hall and was an avid fan of homoerotic male physique magazines. How did this dandy gay bachelor from San Francisco survive the isolation, humiliation, and heteronormativity of imprisonment? The essay recounts the trials and tribulations of looking for Onuma in the mute photographs and other material remains that constitute his archival collection. This inquiry reflects not only my desire to provide a living context for queer artifacts but also grief over the impossibility of fully reanimating these fragmented traces of remembrance. Far from providing a coherent narrative of Onuma's life, this mode of queer speculation demonstrates how affective attachments to the past can lead to unexpected possibilities for engaging with queer history, memory, and the archive.
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Tina Takemoto; Looking for Jiro Onuma: A Queer Meditation on the Incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. GLQ 1 June 2014; 20 (3): 241–275. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-2422665
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