Through the case of Japanese Americans in Seattle, Washington before World War II, this talk explores the significance of U.S. Pacific expansion and Japanese migration for West Coast urban development, and how, in turn, the Pacific port’s pursuit of status as a “gateway to the Orient” shaped the lives of its Asian residents. Locals would claim that the city--and communities within it--was “cosmopolitan,” in effect framing domestic pluralism as a phenomenon of internationalism and international migration. And to the extent that people sought to realize this claim in concrete terms, Japanese Americans discovered and seized opportunities to be visible in the urban landscape, participate in local affairs, and envision themselves as members of “cosmopolitan Seattle,” with very mixed results.
Shelley Lee is an associate professor of history and comparative American studies at Oberlin College. She is the author of two books, Claiming the Oriental Gateway: Prewar Seattle and Japanese America (Temple UP, 2011) and A New History of America (Routledge, 2013). She is currently working on a project about post-1965 Korean immigration and urban politics in Los Angeles.
Hosted by the Center for Asian American Studies with support from the Institute for Historical Studies.