California Studies Association
an occasional newsletter  
May 2015

Welcome to the second California Studies Association newsletter, which we send out on an occasional basis to alert members about news and events of interest to this community.

If you would like to submit contributions, contact Lindsey Dillon or Lincoln Cushing,,
Don't miss the 2015 California Studies Association conference, PARCHED: DRY TIMES IN THE GOLDEN STATE, on October 24, 2015, at the University of San Francisco and Oct 25 in Berkeley. More information to come! 
CONGRATULATIONS to Hiroshi Kashiwagi, recipient of the 2015 Carey McWilliams Award. The California Studies Association will host an event in Mr. Kashiwagi's honor on October 25, 2015, in Berkeley, CA, with a reading by the great playwright.
Rachel Brahinsky writes: I spent Memorial Day weekend wandering over the Sierra Nevada and spotted some much-needed snow and hail. Coming from Oakland, where we haven't seen real rain in a very long time, the eastern Sierra offered a respite and a sense of hope: might there be water in our future? This is the ongoing condition of drought that we all find ourselves living with. It is an environmental problem, of course. But it is also a political, historical, and existential challenge, one that is rapidly becoming the defining feature of our time, uncovering the ways in which we continue to stretch the limits of nature.

As the drought persists, we are all pressed to better understand and engage with the politics of climate change, and to reckon with the drought-related tensions produced by urban development and by the ways we strain against our agricultural limits. One source of inspiration comes from the everyday experiences of Californians who find themselves becoming creative survivalists, as our sense of limitless water evaporates. These concerns, paired with attention to the artistic responses of Californians -- through painting, textiles, film, and literature -- all form the basis for the 25th Annual California Studies Association Conference, which is scheduled for October 24-25, 2015 in San Francisco and Berkeley. This is an ever-urgent conversation, which we hope to have with you.  
In this issue you'll find:
Announcements from members.... upcoming events.... an essay by Docks to Delta creator Ildi Carlisle-Cummins.... an article on the playwright Hiroshi Kashiwagi (this year's recipient of the Carey McWilliams award! Congrats!).... a reflection on the 1976 filming Farewell to Manzanar, in Tule Lake.

UCSC sociology professor Miriam Greenberg's project, "Critical Sustainabilities: Competing Discourses of Urban Development in California" is now online, which also features articles by Rachel Brahinsky and Lindsey Dillon. The Sociology Colloquium series at Santa Cruz is hosting a special launch event for the website on Monday, June 1st, from 12-2pm, in 201 College 8, UC Santa Cruz.

Peter Richardson is speaking about his recent book, No Simply Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead, and the upcoming Bay Area Book Festival, at 12pm on June 6th. The Book Festival runs from June 6-7 in downtown Berkeley.

Chuck Wollenberg published an article on the Reber Plan, "The Man Who Helped Save the Bay by Trying to Destroy It", in Boom: A Journal of California. Chuck is giving two talks at the Berkeley Public Library entitled "Save the Bay", on June 20th and June 27th, at 2pm, in the Berkeley History Room of the main library. The talks celebrate the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, by discussing Berkeley's key role in the Save the Bay Movement.

Bay Area members won't want to miss "California Pride: Mapping LGBTQ Histories" at the California Historical Society, San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 10th, at 6pm.

Southern California members should check out
 "Coyotes, Cows, Carp, and Coral Trees: 300 Years of Nature in Los Angeles", at the Autry in Griffith Park, on Saturday, June 20th, at 2pm

Tomas Sandoval's research featured on KQED's The California Report -


Cal Ag Roots 
Unearthing Stories of California Agricultural Development


By Ildi Carlisle-Cummins


Ildi is a former Switzer Foundation Fellow and currently a Project Director at the California Institute for Rural Studies, and Associate Director at FoodWhat.

     As a graduate student at UC Davis who lived in Oakland, I boarded the Capitol Corridor train at least three times a week, enjoying the slow, rumbling journey along the Bay coastline and inland to school. I had enrolled in grad school after a ten-year career in the California food movement, working to shift California farming towards sustainability and justice, because I felt like I needed a better sense of how California farming developed. As much creative energy as I brought to various food movement jobs, I often felt like I didn’t have a structural understanding of the  industry I was working within. I spent a couple luxurious years in grad school reading everything I could about the history of California agriculture, and discovering untold stories that shed light on new possibilities for food movement work in this state. And surprisingly, my first project was as much about my train commute as the agriculture I came to study.
     Now, two years out of school, I’ve built a program called Cal Ag Roots—planted at the California Institute for Rural Studies—that draws on that research. I knew I had unearthed some movement-building gold. The idea behind Cal Ag Roots is straightforward: If we arm activists with historical knowledge, they are better prepared to reflect on, and carry out, their important work. Cal Ag Roots is interested in sparking discussion about agricultural development because we believe shifting farming and food systems towards social, economic and environmental justice requires a clear-eyed understanding of how and why the current agricultural system developed. While there are many stories about California agriculture, many of them adhere to strict ideologies—praising the ingenuity of the industrial food system or decrying its effects Without knowledge of where we’ve been and what structures we are surrounded by, it is too easy for anyone interested in changing California farming to reinvent past failed solutions, unintentionally replicate injustices and misplace energy fighting the wrong battles.

     It turns out that my commute train line was the perfect starting place for Cal Ag Roots. Our first project is called “Docks to Delta: Listening to the Landscape Along the Capitol Corridor.” It’s part live storytelling event and part podcast series, through which we hope to reveal the agricultural history of the landscape as seen through the windows of the Capitol Corridor train that runs between Oakland to Sacramento. Docks to Delta is designed amplify the voices of people who lived through and participated in key moments in California agriculture, highlighting stories that push our thinking beyond the usual historical narratives and policy debates. 
 Docks to Delta guests on the Capitol Corridor train for the launch event (happening on September 26, 2015) will hear stories in a lively, thought-provoking, two-hour program on the way to Sacramento and will have the opportunity to talk to one another and the storytellers (over food, of course!) on the return trip to Oakland. After the event, all Docks to Delta stories will be made available as podcasts that can be accessed via smart phone app or computer by anyone riding the Capitol Corridor or by members of the general public, at any time. 
     Conceived of as the launch of the larger Cal Ag Roots program, Docks to Delta will focus on three defining stories in California agricultural history with connections to places along the Capitol Corridor route:
  • Break-Down of the Bracero Program. The Docks to Delta ride will begin in Oakland, which was home to a large Bracero camp of over 5000 workers, making it the perfect setting to explore the organizing efforts that led to the demise of the Bracero Program in 1964.
  • Fierce Water Subsidy Fights. North of Oakland along the route, Suisun Bay is at the mouth of the Sacramento River, which is one of the major arteries of the California agricultural water system. Surrounded by water, listeners will learn about widespread debates that raged in the late 1970’s, centering on lawsuits contesting the size of irrigation allotments for farmers—and call government subsidy of large-scale farming into question.
  • The Tomato Harvester, Unleashed. This incredible feat of engineering, achieved at UC Davis, which the Capitol Corridor passes right through, had tremendous impacts on the tomato industry and put thousands of farmworkers out of work in one fell swoop. CIRS and other community organizations created such a backlash to the harvester’s release that the UC system was eventually forced to create the Small Farm Center and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.
  Each story will be framed and narrated by someone who lived through the event and who can connect their story to the landscape. Storytellers will be paired with historians and musicians to paint a richly complex portrait of these three moments in California agricultural history. This story tour will be performed live in front of an audience on the train and then will be recorded and made available online as part of the Cal Ag Roots Story Hub, which we expect will be promoted by the Capitol Corridor marketing department.
     With any luck, Docks to Delta listeners will never look at the landscape along the Capitol Corridor tracks in the same way again.
For more information—and to help launch the Docks to Delta project—please visit or contact Ildi Carlisle-Cummins at
- Picturing Manzanar - 

by Martha Bridegram
The camp gate area and former MP barracks, in 2013 and as filmed in 1975 (on Kindle).
     Nothing else looks like Castle Rock, the volcanic ridge that forms the dominant landmark of the Tule Lake incarceration site in Modoc County, California. The makers of "Farewell to Manzanar" tried to keep it off camera but it shows up in glimpses. 
     Because of a belated 2011 re-release, the 1976 film version of the Farewell to Manzanar memoir has recently returned to public attention. The production was an important early dramatization for a national audience of a Japanese American family's incarceration experience during World War II. Many actors, extras, and crew based their work on personal and family incarceration histories. The project also created an early-career convergence of artists and intellectuals who went on to work in film, academia, and activism.
Barbara Parker Narita's photos of filming a scene in which the Wakatsuki family celebrate their release from camp. Locations are the former Tule Lake MP barracks and the lower slope of Castle Rock.
     Because Manzanar has few original camp buildings, most filming was done at the former military police barracks of the Tule Lake Segregation Center. Tule Lake, with a peak population above 18,000 inmates, was the notorious high-security camp for people defined by an unjust review process as "disloyal". In the conservative Tule Lake Basin, the film production was among the first local events to recognize the incarceration as an injustice and the campsite as historic.

     Martha Bridegam and Laurie Shigekuni interviewed participants in the Tule Lake filming for an article in Discover Nikkei, illustrated with photos of the location filming by the the late Barbara Parker Narita. It will appear May 19, May 20, and May 21, 2015. Meanwhile, is digitizing the full set of photos with plans to post them online late this summer.

Martha Bridegam is an independent writer in San Francisco, and for several years was a part-time attorney with the law office of Laurie Shigekuni & Associates. She first visited the Tule Lake Segregation Center site in 1993 as an intern with a legal aid office and has returned since then to research the history and context of the site. Her Web site is at

Laurie Shigekuni is the principal attorney at the law office of Laurie Shigekuni & Associates. (See Her lifelong interest in Nikkei issues has been influenced by her family's activism on redress issues. She is a guest writer for the "Senior Moments" column in the Rafu Shimpo and a former contributing columnist for the Hokubei Mainichi.
Hiroshi Kashiwagi

By Patricia Wakida with Lindsey Dillon

The poet, playwright, memoirist, and actor Hiroshi Kashiwagi will be the recipient of the 2015 Carey McWilliams Award, in recognition of his body of literary work, his community activism and life-long advocacy for California Civil liberties. Mr. Kashiwagi is affectionately known as the "poet laureate of Tule Lake" by the Japanese American community. 

The following article is based on California Studies Association member Patricia Wakida's entry on Kashiwagi in the Densho Encyclopedia.

     Hiroshi Kashiwagi was born on November 8, 1922, in a boarding house in Sacramento, California, and spent his childhood with a younger brother and sister in Loomis, a small agricultural town in Placer County, where his parents ran a fish market. He graduated from high school in Los Angeles, but soon after was incarcerated in Tule Lake concentration camp, with his mother and siblings. He later described this experience as more than physical confinement, but “invisible fence enclosing our spirit; this imprisonment of the spirit, the psychological effect … was the most ravaging part of the camp experience, leaving a scar that would remain with us for the rest of our lives.”[i]

     When asked to sign the “loyalty questionnaire”, Kashiwagi and his family refused. In response to the government intimidation and ostracism that followed, Kashiwagi renounced his U.S. citizenship. He writes about this and other early experiences in his book, Starting From Loomis and Other Stories. With the help of the ACLU, Kashiwagi’s citizenship was restored, although the process took nearly twenty years.

      After his release from Tule Lake in 1946, and with his U.S. citizenship case underway, Kashiwagi moved back to Los Angeles, where he worked as a farm laborer for two years, and then enrolled in Los Angeles City College, as an English major (he eventually graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Oriental Languages). In 1949, he wrote his first play for the Nisei Experimental Group, a Japanese American theater group in Los Angeles that he founded with Hirotaka Okubo. In 1952, Kashiwagi entered a Ph.D. program in art history at UC Berkeley, where he wrote plays, including "Laughter and False Teeth”, which is set in the Japanese American concentration camps.

     Kashiwagi married Sadako Nimura in 1957, and together they have three sons. In 1966, he became one of few minority librarians in the San Francisco Public Library system. Over his twenty year career, he worked as a reference librarian in literature, Japanese language materials, science and government documents, and as a branch manager. At the Western Addition branch he began what is now the largest collection of Japanese language books on the West Coast, before retiring in 1987. Today there is a plaque at the Western Addition branch, recognizing his work.

     In 1981 Kashiwagi testified in front of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, was formed to investigate the reasons for the WWII mass incarceration of the Japanese Americans, leading to an official government apology to Japanese Americans and redress payments in 1988.

     As an actor, Kashiwagi has appeared in such films as Black Rain, directed by Ridley Scott; Hito Hata: Raise the Banner, produced by Visual Communications; Dark Circle; and Hot Summer Winds, and Rabbit in the Moon, both by Emiko Omori. His stage acting credits with the Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco include And The Soul Shall Dance by Wakako Yamuchi and Zatoichi Superstar by Warren Kubota. His own plays include: The Plums Can Wait (1949), Laughter and False Teeth (1953), Kisa Gotami, a Buddhist parable (1955), Mondai wa Akira (The Problem is Akira), a bilingual play (1956), Blessed Be (1977), Window for Aya (1979), The Betrayed (1993). Kashiwagi has written the following books: Starting from Loomis and Other Stories (2013), Swimming in the American, a Memoir and Selected Writings (2005), Shoe Box Plays (2008), Ocean Beach, Poems (2008). Swimming in the American: a Memoir and Selected Writings, Kashiwagi’s first book, was awarded the American Book Award 2005 by the Before Columbus Foundation. He is also a member of the Dramatists Guild and the Screen Actors Guild.
See past Carey McWilliams awardees:
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