Family and Community for Japanese Immigrants in Oregon

Lucie Imamoto Speaks on Their History Thesis

With the fall semester in full swing, Reed seniors are beginning their long-awaited thesis journeys. Lucie Imamoto ‘22 is a history major who has just begun their research. Imamoto’s thesis examines the lived experiences of Japanese migrant families in Oregon in the early to mid 1900s. They hope to look at how families interact within a community as well as how gender roles and family structures are developed in line with these families’ environments.

Imamoto initially struggled to decide on a topic, saying, “For some people, they go into their senior year knowing that ‘this is what I wanna write about’, and that’s really great, but that was not me.” 

Amid panicking about finding a topic and meeting deadlines, Imamoto took comfort in giving themself the space to explore what they love. They maintained the mentality that while writing a thesis is a momentous endeavor, it does not have to be what makes or breaks their college experience.

Imamoto discovered their topic by recalling a class they took with Assistant Professor of History Radhika Natarajan on migration histories that truly sparked their interest in the day-to-day lives and communities built by migrant families. Being half-Japanese themself, Imamoto felt drawn to understand the cultural background of Japanese families specifically. It was at this point that they decided to look into Oregon’s migrant history.

To glean insights about migrant history in Oregon, Imamoto has collected and sifted through image and newspaper archives. Their goal now is to find a family that can act as an individual case study as a means to gain a direct understanding of family and community relations. 

As they examine these records, they now look for evidence of how these communities lived and what their culture looked like. Imamoto says, “It would be really cool if I could get specific insights into how communities and family relations sort of interacted with the American environment, including the xenophobic laws targeted at Asian migrants, and also generationally how children may have taken gender roles or family structures that were taught to them by their parents and shaped them according to their own circumstances.” Their research works to understand how these families’ experiences in the early 1900s have shaped culture and community through generations into the 21st century.

Ultimately, Imamoto’s research aims to emphasize the beauty and notability behind migrant stories, saying, “There’s something really special about choosing to pack up your whole life essentially and move to a new place. A lot of these people were met with a lot of discrimination, a lot of hate, and their ability to adapt and make their own communities in this new space… is I think deserving of scholarly attention — and attention in general.” 

As they continue their research, Imamoto poses simple yet difficult advice for all seniors, themself included: “Just don’t panic.” Imamoto reminds all students that they would not have reached this point if they were not capable.

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