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The Rise and Fall of America's Concentration Camp Law

Civil Liberties Debates from the Internment to McCarthyism and the Radical 1960s

Masumi Izumi
  • Outstanding Academic Title, Choice, 2020

The Emergency Detention Act, Title II of the Internal Security Act of 1950, is the only law in American history to legalize preventive detention. It restricted the freedom of a certain individual or a group of individuals based on actions that may be taken that would threaten the security of a nation or of a particular area. Yet the Act was never enforced before it was repealed in 1971.

Masumi Izumi links the Emergency Detention Act with Japanese American wartime incarceration in her cogent study, The Rise and Fall of America’s Concentration Camp Law. She dissects the entangled discourses of race, national security, and civil liberties between 1941 and 1971 by examining how this historical precedent generated “the concentration camp law” and expanded a ubiquitous regime of surveillance in McCarthyist America.

Izumi also shows how political radicalism grew as a result of these laws. Japanese Americas were instrumental in forming grassroots social movements that worked to repeal Title II. The Rise and Fall of America’s Concentration Camp Law is a timely study in this age of insecurity where issues of immigration, race, and exclusion persist.

Reviews

"Izumi presents a compelling argument, claiming that US lawmakers, gripped by the fear of a communist (rather than Japanese) incursion, relied on the legal precedents created by the internment to institute America’s only preventive detention law—one aimed at potentially subversive individuals or groups.... The frequent inclusion of excerpts and illustrations from contemporary sources will help make the text more accessible for some readers.... (T)his is a welcome addition to both American and legal history. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
— Choice

"The story is absorbing, and relevant for today’s politics as 9/11 shows. Izumi has done meticulous research, lays the arguments out logically so that each step in the history is clear. This is an important and valuable book for our community, for as hard as it was for our community, the harm that it did to the constitution was and is much more damaging."
—International Examiner

"This is policy history at its best, showing the complex interactions between policy makers and their larger society. It is built on a sturdy foundation of an explanation of why and how the United States interned hundreds of thousands of people during World War II but is also informed by the cultural turn in historical analysis.... What Izumi reveals about those times speaks to our current time, as racialized imagery and hysterical fears about national security have moved the nation to create concentration camps for a different racial group of aliens."
—Pacific Historical Review

"In The Rise and Fall of America’s Concentration Camp Law , Masumi Izumi examines both the immediate origins and the broader social context of this law and its 1971 repeal.... This book provides a detailed explanation of the political perspectives and pressures attending the Joseph McCarthy era, as well as those that led Richard M. Nixon, somewhat ironically, to support its repeal.... The Rise and Fall of America’s Concentration Camp Law reflects years of painstaking research and will serve as an invaluable reference for those interested in either the legislative history of the Internal Security Act or the ascendance of critical voices within the Japanese American community."
—Journal of American History

"The book’s most outstanding contribution is its compelling examination of how another preventive detention—the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans—formed the basis for the McCarran Act.... (A) thorough and astute analysis.... Izumi offers a compellingly argued and extensively researched study of the dangers of forgoing civil liberties for the sake of national security."
—American Historical Review

About the Author(s)

Masumi Izumi is a Professor of North American Studies in the Department of Global and Regional Studies, Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.

In the Series

Asian American History and Culture

Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong and Linda Trinh Võ, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.