Please explain how we can improve this archived object.
Thanks for submitting your feedback. Our team will review it as soon as possible, and we appreciate your contribution.

Japanese Incarceration: Public Memory and Cultural Production, Part 2

Date Mar 28, 2018
Type Performance

Presented in collaboration with the Poetry Society of America and the Poetry Coalition’s “Poetry and the Body” theme, this two-part event brings together artists, scholars, poets, and photographers who draw on the history of Japanese incarceration during World War II and its archival, material evidence in their innovative practices. During Part II, Julian Saporiti with Erin Aoyama present the immersive musical experience No-No Boy, followed by a discussion with poet Brandon Shimoda, photographer Paul Kitagaki, and scholar Bob Lee.


Brandon Shimoda is a poet. His most recent books are Evening Oracle (Letter Machine Editions), which received the 2016 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America; its sequel, The Desert (forthcoming from The Song Cave); and his first book of nonfiction, an ancestral memoir called The Grave on the Wall (forthcoming from City Lights). He lives, for now, in the desert.

Pulitzer Prize– and Emmy-nominated photographer Paul Kitagaki Jr. has been published in news outlets worldwide, including Time, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, Stern, People, Mother Jones, and the New York Times Lens blog featuring his powerful images that publish daily in The Sacramento Bee. Throughout his career he has photographed eight Olympic games, the World Series, and Super Bowls. In addition, he has covered numerous national stories, as well as international events from Vietnam to Iraq. In 2014, he was featured in the Dyanna Taylor PBS American Masters series Grab a Hunk of Lighting about her grandmother, documentary photographer Dorothea Lange. Currently, Paul’s ongoing project on the Japanese American internment camps, Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit: Triumphing Over Adversity Japanese American WWII Incarceration Reflections: Then and Now, is a national traveling exhibition.

Robert Lee teaches Asian American and transpacific studies at Brown University, where he is an associate professor of American Studies and Senior Faculty Fellow at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities. He has published on Asian Americans, popular culture, and racial formations; Asian American displacements and diasporas; and the social and cultural connections between Asia and America. He is currently engaged in a digitalization project using family photography in Asian American history and teaches a seminar titled Against Invisibility: Asian America, Collective Memory, and the Public Humanities.

Lee has been active in developing American Studies in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. In 2014, he was a Fulbright scholar at the Research Institute for the Humanities at the Chinese University of Hong Kong where developed a graduate seminar on transpacific history taught with colleagues in real-time between Brown and the Chinese University of Hong Kong and subsequently with the Nanyang University of Technology in Singapore.

The No-No Boy project is a multimedia concert featuring the music of singer/songwriter Julian Saporiti. Inspired by his doctoral research at Brown University, as well as his experiences growing up as the son of a Vietnamese refugee in Tennessee, Saporiti’s original songs, interwoven among stories he has collected through the years, are performed against a backdrop of projections displaying archival photographs and films. No-No Boy creates an immersive experience that shines a light on diverse but interconnected histories: World War II Japanese incarceration, Southeast Asian refugees, and kids in middle-America making sense of hyphenated identities. Saporiti is joined on stage by singer Erin Aoyama, a fellow Brown PhD student whose participation in the project is deeply personal, as her grandmother was incarcerated at Heart Mountain, one of the ten Japanese American concentration camps. Through music, storytelling, and visuals, the No-No Boy concert brings often-obscured American histories to audiences in a unique and captivating way. At the core of this project, is a message which dozens of camp survivors have asked Saporiti to relay to his audiences: Do not let this happen again.

From 2004–2010, Julian Saporiti fronted the Berklee–trained indie-rock group, The Young Republic. After releasing several well-received albums and touring extensively around North America and Europe, Saporiti relocated to Laramie, Wyoming to pursue an MA in American Studies. Upon completion, he took a job lecturing at the University. While living out west, Saporiti made several trips to the remains of the Heart Mountain concentration camp in northwest Wyoming where, during World War II, the US government unconstitutionally incarcerated over 10,000 people of Japanese descent, most of whom were US citizens. These trips made a profound impact and inspired Saporiti to begin interviewing camp survivors and researching the music performed in the camps. From these interviews, and thinking about his own displaced family of Vietnamese refugees, he began writing the No-No Boy album and performing concerts around the country, as a way to tell stories in a unique and innovative format. He currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island, continuing this research, composing, and recording music, and pursuing a PhD at Brown University, where he also directs the Brown Arts Initiative Songwriters Workshop.

Erin Aoyama is currently pursuing a PhD in the American studies department at Brown University. Her involvement with the No-No Boy Project, which began when she and Julian Saporiti met in August of 2017 as participants on the Brown Japanese American Incarceration Mobile Workshop, is both scholarly and deeply personal. For her senior honors thesis as an undergraduate at Harvard University, Aoyama researched the interplay between Japanese American incarceration and the experiences of African Americans in the Jim Crow South—focusing on the two World War II concentration camps in Arkansas and the segregated American military. She is currently continuing this project as part of her doctoral research at Brown.

Aoyama's interest in this work is also largely personal. She is a legacy of Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming, where her grandmother was incarcerated during the war, and her involvement with the No-No Boy project has been a powerful way to connect with her family's history using art and storytelling.