Laura Fugikawa

Faculty Advisor: Jack Halberstam

Contact Information


Biographical Sketch

Laura Sachiko Fugikawa's dissertation, Domestic Containment: Japanese Americans, Native Americans and the Cultural Politics of Relocation, is a comparative ethnic and cultural studies project that examines narratives of government-sponsored relocation programs. Her work expands the limited comparative ethnic studies work that makes connections between Asian American and Native American Studies with an analysis of the U.S. government's role in two under-examined time periods, the resettlement period of Japanese American history and the urban relocation era in Native American history. These were two of the largest mass migrations within the borders of the United States. While much scholarship that addresses mid-century U.S. race relations has focused on civil rights and integration, little attention has been paid to the U.S. government's citizen-building efforts to assimilate Japanese Americans and Native Americans through dispersal via government agencies. Her work investigates literature and film to understand the process through which the state changed its method of control from policies of physical containment to containment through ideology, as well as these policies’ long-term effects. Domestic Containment looks at contemporary cultural productions to reveal how histories of dispersal within the nation are construed and remembered. Her committee members are Judith Halberstam (Chair, English, ASE and Gender Studies) Jane Iwamura (Religion and ASE), John Carlos Rowe (English and ASE), George Sanchez (History and ASE), and Karen Tongson (English and Gender Studies).


  • B.A. Univ New Mexico , 12/2000
  • M.A. American Studies and Ethnicity, Univ New Mexico, 08/2004


Summary Statement of Research Interests

  • Domestic Containment centers a discursive analysis of narratives of relocation and dispersal. Fugikawa begins with the pamphlets, manuals and reports of two government agencies: the War Relocation Authority (WRA) governmental agency, which was created in 1943 to encourage and assist residents to move out of Japanese internment camps, and the Voluntary Relocation Program, an agency modeled after the WRA and created in 1956 in order to encourage Native Americans on and near reservations to move to distant cities. Fugikawa interrogates the government agencies' creative retellings of historical events in order to prove the state's benevolent role in the continued displacement of Japanese Americans and Native Americans. Her analysis of these documents also illuminates how specific gender, class and racial formations were endorsed during the post war era of nation building, and became central tenets in the state’s attempted integration of the Native Americans and Japanese Americans into mainstream American culture. Fugikawa then turns to Julie Otsuka's novel When the Emperor was Divine and Kent Mackenzie's docudrama The Exiles to consider the lingering effects of dispossession and dispersal felt by those pushed into a diasporic space within the borders of a nation state. Film and fiction are necessary to this project to bring to the surface what is felt, but never said, and seen, but not fully recognized. Reading these three forms of narratives – government agency documents, fiction and film -- alongside one another provides insight into what is missing from the stories told about this time period; particularly, the psychic costs of belonging amidst mid-twentieth century understandings of what it meant to be a "citizen," and citizenship more broadly. The methodology and questions guiding her dissertation reflect her larger research interests that emphasize storytelling, sexualities, histories of people of color in the United States and processes of differential racialization. Her previous research culminated in a master's thesis, "The Queerest of the Queer: Mixed-raced Bodies in Postcolonial Texts," which centered on Jessica Hagedorn's novel Dogeaters and John Sayles’ film Lonestar, both texts that focused on queer, mixed-race characters who embody the continuing history of clandestine cross-racial desires on the battlegrounds of the United States' military expansion. She presented this work at the Thinking Gender Conference at UCLA.



  • Department of American Studies & Ethnicity
  • University of Southern California
  • 3620 South Vermont Avenue
  • Kaprielian Hall 462
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-2534