Greg Robinson

Greg Robinson, a native New Yorker, is Professor of History at l'Université du Québec À Montréal, a French-language institution in Montreal, Canada. He is the author of the books By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (Harvard University Press, 2001), A Tragedy of Democracy; Japanese Confinement in North America (Columbia University Press, 2009), After Camp: Portraits in Postwar Japanese Life and Politics (University of California Press, 2012), Pacific Citizens: Larry and Guyo Tajiri and Japanese American Journalism in the World War II Era (University of Illinois Press, 2012), and The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches (University Press of Colorado, 2016), as well as coeditor of the anthology Miné Okubo: Following Her Own Road (University of Washington Press, 2008). Robinson is also coeditor of the volume John Okada - The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy (University of Washington Press, 2018).

His historical column “The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great,” is a well-known feature of the Nichi Bei Weekly newspaper. Robinson’s latest book is an anthology of his Nichi Bei columns and stories published on Discover Nikkei, The Unsung Great: Portraits of Extraordinary Japanese Americans (University of Washington Press, 2020). It was recognized with an Association for Asian American Studies Book Award for Outstanding Achievement in History Honorable Mention in 2022. He can be reached at robinson.greg@uqam.ca.


Updated March 2022

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Parallel Wars: Japanese American and Japanese Canadian Internment Films - Part 2

Part 1 >>  The War Between Us, a Canadian TV-film directed by Anne Wheeler and released in 1995, is a considerably more sophisticated and critical film than Hell to Eternity (from a different generation, in fairness). It recounts the events of the wartime removal of 22,000 West Coast Japanese Canadians by the Canadian government. In February 1942, one week after U.S president Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, Canadian Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King ordered all people of Japanese ancestry, whether aliens or citizens, removed from the Pacific Coast of Canada. …

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Parallel Wars: Japanese American and Japanese Canadian Internment Films - Part 1

This paper examines films that portray the removal and confinement of ethnic Japanese in North America during World War II (often, if imprecisely, called the Japanese internment) through the interactions between Japanese families and white characters, in order to reflect on the ways in which these films are shaped by dominant narratives about race relations. Let me take a moment to explain what I mean about dominant narratives. One eternal dilemma surrounding so-called “message films”; that is, films that deal with social problems and in particular with minorities, is how to get w…

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"Two Other Solitudes": Historical Encounters between Japanese Canadians and French Canadians - Part 2

Part 1 >>   This distant attitude would gradually change after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The outbreak of war between Japan and the British Empire unleashed a new wave of anti-Japanese hysteria in British Columbia. White farmers, merchants and political leaders, seizing the opportunity to rid themselves of their long-despised ethnic Japanese competitors, accused the Japanese Canadians of being spies and saboteurs for Tokyo, and called for drastic action to protect the West Coast. In response to the political pressure, on February 26, 1942, two days …

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"Two Other Solitudes": Historical Encounters between Japanese Canadians and French Canadians - Part 1

Les Canadiens à qui on demande en quoi leur pays se distingue des États-Unis devraient répondre en français. (When Canadians are asked what is the difference between their country and the United States, they should answer in French.) —Lester B. Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada, 1963-1968 As an American living in Montreal, I am frequently assigned the task of comparing the United States and Canada, and of reflecting on the particular factors that make life in these two countries, which share a border and a great deal else, so oddly different. One important h…

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A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement in North America - Excerpt Part 3

>> Part 2 The policies designed by the governments of Franklin Roosevelt and Mackenzie King were arrived at independently, with no effective coordination. All the same, the two were similar in their provisions. Indeed, the Canadian experience points strongly to certain conclusions regarding events south of the border. First, military necessity was not the governing factor in the removal of Issei and Nisei. The same arguments were made in British Columbia as in California about ethnic Japanese being fifth-columnists, yet Canadian Army and Navy leaders, as well as the RCMP, opposed mass e…

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