Entanglements

Glossary

This page is a work in progress.

Asian American

Someone of Asian descent who lives or was born in the United States. 

Colonialism

There are many different types of colonialism that give us ways to talk about and compare how various countries have overtaken full or partial control of other countries or people, as well as the experiences of people in places that have been targets of these dominating practices and policies. Colonialism usually involves members of the occupying country moving to the occupied place and exploiting the resources and labor of the original inhabitants there. We recommend reading “A Typology of Colonialism” by Nancy Shoemaker for anyone interested in a breakdown of several of colonial’s forms.

This term is related to imperialism (see below).

Concentration camp

This project follows the example of the Densho Archive on this subject:

“There is still some debate over the most appropriate terminology for the camps where Japanese Americans were confined during WWII. … As prison camps outside the normal criminal justice system, designed to confine civilians for military and political purposes on the basis of race and ethnicity, these sites also fit the definition of ‘concentration camps.’ As such, Densho’s preferred term is ‘concentration camp’ (e.g. ‘Minidoka concentration camp’). We do also use other terms, such as ‘incarceration camp’ or ‘prison camp,’ but urge the avoidance of euphemisms such as ‘relocation center’ and ‘internment camp.’”

Contract labor

A system of employment that rose in popularity in the mid-nineteenth century continental United States as an alternative to chattel slavery. Most early Chinese in the U.S. West arrived via the credit-ticket system, whereby creditors and transportation brokers in Hong Kong provided the cost of passage to Chinese migrants and then transferred or sold the debt to affiliated companies in American port cities such as San Francisco and Seattle. On arrival, the affiliated companies, owned by Chinese merchants like Chun Ching Hock and Chin Gee Hee, provided lodging, food, and jobs until the migrants could repay their debts, including accrued interest.

Displacement

The forced removal of a group of people from their home to another place. This can occur in numerous ways, including military force, legal procedures, or natural disaster.

Imperialism

Extending a country’s territory, power, or influence through military, diplomatic, or economic strategies.

Indigenous

The original or Native inhabitants of a place that has been colonized by settlers. Unlike “Native American,” the term is not geographically limited to the United States. We may use this term interchangeably with Native, Native American, and American Indian in the United States context.

Indipino

Members of a community that encompass both Filipinos and Indigenous peoples of North America. 

Issei

Immigrants from Japan. Issei means “first generation” in Japanese. 

Japanese and Japanese American Incarceration

This project follows the example of the Densho Archive on this subject:

“The commonly used term ‘internment’ fails to accurately describe what happened to Japanese Americans during WWII. ‘Internment’ refers to the legally permissible, though morally questionable, detention of ‘enemy aliens’ in time of war. There were approximately 8,000 Issei (‘first generation’) arrested as enemy aliens and subjected to what could be described as ‘internment’ in a separate set of camps run by the Army or Department of Justice. This term becomes a misleading, othering euphemism when applied to American citizens detained by their own government; yet two-thirds of Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII were U.S. citizens by birth and right.”

Nationalism

Advocacy and or support for the political independence of a particular nation or people from imperial powers. 

Nisei

US citizens born to Japanese immigrant parents in the United States. Nisei means “second generation” in Japanese.

Nikkei

People of Japanese ancestry who do not live in Japan.

This term is related to Issei and Nisei (see above).

Pasifika

People who are indigenous to Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. Washington state has one of the largest Pasifika populations in the United States.

Treaty

A contract between two or more states that lays out the terms for peace, alliance, commerce, diplomacy, and other international relations. As of 2022, an ongoing exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian highlights a number of treaties with Indigenous nations in the United States, including failures of the federal government to honor such treaties in full.

Revolutionary Nationalism

A political philosophy that guides certain nationalist movements (see definition for “nationalism”above) that desire to achieve independence through a revolution that overthrows the dominant imperial order. The United States will often label revolutionary nationalists who oppose U.S. colonialism as “insurgents” or “rebels” to discount their critiques of the U.S. empire. 

Settler

Member of a colonizing society who moves into an occupied place with the intent of being part of a permanent society there that replaces the pre-existing Indigenous society.

Shiatoru Nihonmanchi

Term for Seattle’s Japantown. “Shiatoru” is a pronunciation of Seattle in Japanese and “Nihonmanchi” means “Japan town” or “Japan street” in Japanese.

Yellow Peril

A Western concept that imagines Asians, often in the form of an invading hoard, as existential threats to Western civilizations. The idea of the “Yellow Peril” was first deployed in the United States in the nineteenth century against Chinese migrants.