Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Art Hansen Interview
Narrator: Art Hansen
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 22, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-hart-01-0028

<Begin Segment 28>

FA: Help me out understanding something as a professor. Documentary, this documentary project has helped recover the story. I mean, we're shaping history. Are we? Yeah we are. Can you talk about this a little bit? I mean, I'm trying hard, how can I, how can I tell the story when I'm, we did the reunions, we covered the resisters?

AH: I think there was a vanguard and there always is in terms of developing a new narrative or opening up an old narrative and making it more complex. And people say, "Well, the real reason for this narrative opening up is because we had the redress movement," and I think that's true but the specifics of it, I attribute a lot to cultural politics. And I think that the prime movers in this have been Frank Abe and Frank Chin and Lawson Inada. And I think to use a very sort of potent vehicle of these readings and films and different kinds of reunions and everything have been a porous enough kind of context to get the community enter into them. And once they enter into them I think they're infected by sort of the spirit of it. And although there is still a lot of resistance and there's a lot of people in the Japanese American community who would like to round up all three of you and shoot you, etcetera, I still think that the net effect was that we have an alternative way of looking at not only the evacuation but at some of these people who were the antiheroes, and I think now the plus and minus signs are starting to change. And that in the course of the time that I've been studying it, whereas the JACL were seen as the heroes and everything for their cooperation, now what's happening, the JACL is starting to seem like toadies, etcetera, who are opportunists who took advantage of the community for their own publicity, for their own well-being, etcetera, and really the heroes were those people who resisted. Not to take anything away from the people who fought. I mean, most of the people that went into the army were kids. I told you a little while ago, when I was twenty years old, I didn't know the kinds of things I should have known. Seventeen-and-a-half behind barbed wire you don't know very much either. You have a hunger to get out, you have a hunger to make good what seems to have been made bad, and I think people did that.

FA: And yet, how can Frank and Lawson and I be storytellers when we're not objective? I mean, we're part of it.

AH: Well you're not exactly the storytellers alone. What you've been is the people that have gone out and allowed other people space to be able to tell the story, which is a different sort of thing. As an oral historian -- and the reason I've stayed with oral history rather than writing so many interpretive things is I feel it's necessary for people themselves to discover these things and to be the interpreters of their own history. If you don't have that there's no therapy in it. I mean, you can't provide therapy for people by telling their story. What you do is to act as a midwife to help them tell their own story, and I think that's what you have been. I mean, is that you have provided a means and a way and everything for a lot of people to tell this story.

FA: And maybe they'll say, how can we tell the story, we're not objective.

AH: Well, I'm saying you're not exactly telling the story, you're allowing them to tell the story and even if they say you're not objective, historians aren't. I mean that every historian has filters through which they perceive reality, past reality as well as present reality. And there is going to be -- if there weren't those kind of filters and there wasn't a point, then it would be ridiculous. Nobody, it would have no meaning. So you're imposing meaning, and the meaning comes out of the crucible of what you lived through and what you value and what you feel. And it's right that you should have some vested interest in what you're doing, otherwise, you know, you're sort of an amoral capitalist.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.