Racialization and Racism

Landscapes of beauty and plunder: Japanese American flower growers and an elite public garden in Los Angeles

In 1942, Los Angeles newspaper publisher Elias Manchester Boddy purchased the nursery stock of at least three Japanese-owned nurseries. Two grower families, the Yoshimuras and the Uyematsus, were forced to sell their life’s work prior to their indefinite incarceration by the U.S. government during the Second World War. These plants, including rare and unique breeds of camellias, became the basis of what is now Descanso Gardens, a celebrated public garden. In this article, I examine Boddy’s transactions as an instance of racial plunder: a morally and affectively inflected act of theft structured by racism that is as much about the act’s preconditions and afterlives as it is about the act itself. Using archival research, oral histories, and interviews with family members, I foreground the experiences and perspectives of the Japanese American families across multiple generations and landscapes, rather than a single perspective and defining moment. In doing so, a story emerges involving alternative worldviews forged through and superseding racism and dispossession as well as heterogenous relationships to land not dictated by capitalist logics. In detailing the specifics of the transactions, this work also challenges the silences and misrepresentations that exculpate those who benefited from Internment.

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Volume 38 Issue 4

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