Remembering Lane Ryo Hirabayashi,
With deep appreciation

It is with deep sadness that the UCLA Asian American Studies Center shares news about the recent passing of Professor Emeritus Lane Ryo Hirabayashi. Professor Hirabayashi was the inaugural George & Sakaye Aratani Endowed Chair of the Japanese American Incarceration, Redress and Community (Aratani Chair) and served as a member of the Center's Faculty Advisory Committee. He retired from UCLA in 2017. Professor Valerie Matsumoto, current holder of the Aratani Chair, shared this tribute in memory of her longtime friend and colleague.

(From left to right) Karen Umemoto, Lane Hirabayashi, Valerie Matsumoto

(From left to right) Karen Umemoto, Lane Hirabayashi, Valerie Matsumoto

Lane Hirabayashi was a valued friend and colleague—a prodigious scholar, teacher, and activist, whose work and ideals were deeply rooted in family tradition. He was greatly influenced by his father James A. Hirabayashi, a sociocultural anthropologist who was involved with the Third World Strike at San Francisco State University and became the first Dean of the School of Ethnic Studies. Working on projects with his father, as well as their discussions about "cultures of resistance," informed Lane's approach to social research that focused "on working with or for a community-based group seeking to empower an ethnic minority population that had been excluded from the mainstream in terms of resources and services..."

Lane received his BA at the California State University, Sonoma (1974) and then pursued an MA (1976) and Ph.D. (1981) in Anthropology at UC Berkeley. Lane's engagement with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center (AASC) began in 1981, when he was awarded an Institute of American Cultures postdoctoral fellowship. Eager to get involved with the Japanese American community in Southern California, he began working with a range of community-based organizations, including the Gardena Pioneer Project, the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations (now Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress), the Asian American Drug Abuse Program, and East West Players. In 1983, he left for a position in the School of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. In the 1990s, he became a professor in Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and from 2003-2005, at UC Riverside.

In 2006, Lane returned to UCLA as the inaugural holder of the George and Sakaye Aratani Endowed Chair on the Japanese American Incarceration, Redress, and Community—the first endowed chair in the country to focus on the wartime confinement of Japanese Americans. Mindful of the parallels between the racial profiling of the Issei and Nisei during the 1940s and Arab Americans after 9/11, Lane said, "What I want to make sure is that people remember the past so that we can make better policy decisions."

He was in the forefront of scholars calling for the use of more precise terminology regarding the forced uprooting and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, and for avoiding government euphemisms such as "evacuation" and "relocation." He also argued that "comparative research relating this history to the internment of Middle Eastern and Muslim detainees, and the incarceration of militant activists of color and prisoners of conscience, is imperative."

In addition to his duties and activities as the holder of the Aratani Endowed Chair, Lane served as the Chair of the Asian American Studies Department from 2007-2010 and taught a range of courses on Japanese American experience, contemporary Asian American communities, the experiences of multi-racial Asian Americans, and Asian Americans and reparations.

Throughout his career, Lane contributed enormously to Japanese American history, Japanese American studies, and Asian American studies. He authored or edited nine books and more than thirty academic articles. (This essay can mention only a few. For a full list of publications, see: Since his arrival at UCLA, he co-authored Japanese American Resettlement Through the Lens: Hikaru Iwasaki and the WRA's Photographic Section, 1943-1945 (2008), analyzing how the WRA sought to use the images and assessing their impact after the war. In 2013 he brought intimate perspective to one of the key cases in U.S. Constitutional law, co-editing the book A Principled Stand: Gordon Hirabayashi v. the United States, drawing on his uncle's prison diaries and correspondence to present, in Gordon's own words, how he defied the wartime curfew of Japanese Americans, the course of his Supreme Court case, subsequent imprisonment, and the 1987 appeal of his case.

Lane's work shed light not only on wartime experiences but also the redress movement of the 1970s and 80s. He co-edited NCRR: The Grassroots Struggle for Japanese American Redress and Reparations, published by the UCLA AASC Press in 2018. He wrote that the stories of the NCRR activists "richly illustrate the personal transformation engendered when people take their history, destiny, and representations into their own hands."

Lane was a leader in drawing scholarly attention to the histories of and linkages among communities of the Japanese diaspora throughout the Americas. Reflecting the breadth of his vision, he launched the "George and Sakaye Aratani Nikkei in the Americas" book series with the University Press of Colorado. To date, eight titles have been published, including works that illuminate the history of the Japanese American community in New York City, Japanese Brazilian diasporic identities, and oral histories of resistance in the World War II camps. Researchers seeking assistance from the Densho online encyclopedia of Japanese American history will continue to benefit from Lane's deep knowledge, given the many essays he contributed. Also, he and his wife, literary scholar Marilyn Alquizola, collaborated on a series of articles about Carlos Bulosan, including the forward to the reissued 2014 edition of Bulosan's classic America Is in the Heart.

One of the primary responsibilities of the Aratani Endowed Chair involves administering the George and Sakaye Aratani Community Advancement Research Endowment (CARE) awards program, which began with Lane's tenure as AEC. The Aratani CARE awards are given annually to projects that will benefit and advance the Japanese American community. Lane devoted enormous energy to this program, working with the AAS Center staff to develop and implement the application process, as well as heading a faculty committee to review the award applications. He also generously arranged for the committee to meet to discuss funding decisions over lunch at a favorite Chinese restaurant. Under his supervision, the Aratani CARE awards have supported a wide array of projects by individuals and community organizations, such as the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, UCLA Nikkei Student Union, Kizuna, Little Tokyo Historical Society, Nichi Bei Foundation, and many others. This includes the successful international endeavor of the Waseda University Japanese American history project, in collaboration with UCLA, to recover dozens of original audio recordings of Issei interviews conducted by the UCLA Japanese American Research Project in the 1960s.

As the Aratani Chair, Lane worked ceaselessly to bridge campus and community with numerous programs and events: He brought artists, activists, and scholars to campus, for example sponsoring a screening of Ann Kaneko and Sharon Yamato's 2013 documentary film, A Flicker in Eternity, based on a young Nisei's camp diary and letters from military service in Europe. Lane also organized many panels and programs to present scholarly research and publicize resources in Japanese American communities throughout the West. He worked closely with the Japanese American National Museum and the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute as well as community organizations in San Francisco, Denver, and Riverside. His calendar was packed with engagements, whether speaking at the screening of Toshi Washizu's film Issei in Walnut Grove, making a presentation about the UCLA AASC's Suyama Project in Sacramento, or participating in a Zócalo Public Square forum on "What Does the Japanese American Experience Tell Us About the Proposed Muslim Registry?" An inspiring orator who combined keen historical analysis with a passion for civil rights, he spoke at countless Days of Remembrance, organized by Japanese American communities to keep in memory the signing of Executive Order 9066, the presidential authorization of the forced removal of Japanese-descent people from the West Coast.

Lane's research agenda remained full after his retirement from UCLA in 2017. Throughout his prolific academic career, he maintained a steadfast commitment both to scholarship and to what he called mutuality—not just conducting research but also acknowledging that there can be a deep sharing of purpose between researcher and subject. He learned this from his father, Jim, and it became a lifelong touchstone that always privileged active involvement with community. Lane wrote, "I have tried to both share what was given to me and to invite readers in turn to rethink and sharpen an approach that can be an integral tool in ethically and politically informed social research leading to engagement and empowerment..."

- Professor Valerie J. Matsumoto, August 2020