Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Stephen A. Mrozowski

Second Advisor

Christopher D. Fung

Third Advisor

Stacey L. Camp


This thesis seeks to understand how individuals exiled from their homes due to racial prejudice cope with institutional confinement. Specifically, this study focuses on the World War II mass incarceration of individuals of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast of the United States after Japan's attack on the American naval base Pearl Harbor. Under the guise of national security and without due process, the United States government forcibly removed over 110,000 Japanese Americans from their homes and imprisoned them in camps spread throughout the country. This thesis examines institutional confinement at one Japanese American carceral site: an incarceration camp in eastern California called Manzanar Relocation Center where two-thirds of the incarceree population were American citizens and all were confined to living behind a barbed wire fence in tarpaper-covered barracks. The research questions for this project are centered on how incarcerees at Manzanar transformed their austere living quarters and the military-prison landscape into a place they could consider "home." Two types of incarceree-created constructions are closely examined: basements dug underneath barracks apartments and elaborate ornamental gardens built in or near residential blocks. Drawing upon multiple lines of evidence such as oral history interviews, documentary sources, government records, and archaeological material from recent excavations, an analysis of barracks basements and ornamental gardens at Manzanar reveal how alterations to the camp environment helped incarcerees strengthen family ties and create community under the stresses of confinement.