Seminars and Panels

The Devil's Heritage: Masuo Kodani, the "Nisei Problem," and Social Stratification at the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Japan (1946-1954)

Professor Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis

Jan 28, 2015
11:00 A.M. - 12:30 P.M.
232 Philip G. Hoffman Hall

This paper focuses on Masuo Kodani, a Japanese American geneticist best known for his work in the human chromosome story and for his work with human geneticist James V. Neel. It follows his tumultuous career beginning at the University of California, Berkeley and his subsequent incarceration at Manzanar War Relocation Center and at Tule Lake where he, along with a cluster of incarcerated Japanese American scientists, horticulturalists and nursery owners, engaged in a little-known wartime study on guayule, a source of latex, a valuable wartime commodity. The paper follows his subsequent appointment to the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) in Japan, the American agency sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council (NAS-NRC) and funded by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) that conducted research on the survivors of the atomic blasts. It explores at length his dual identity as intermediary between the survivors, and American officials and scientists collecting genetic data. His research and pivotal role in the organization of the Genetics Division is explored in the context of US-Japanese relations that drew on a number of "Nisei" or second generation Japanese Americans many of whom had similarly been interned and who functioned as intermediaries in the organization. The paper concludes with an assessment of Asian minorities in twentieth century in general and Japanese American minorities in particular. Read more...