The UCLA Asian American Studies Center and Department, and the Department of History have announce the appointment of Professor Valerie J. Matsumoto to the George and Sakaye Aratani Endowed Chair on the Japanese American Incarceration, Redress, and Community, effective July 1.

Valerie Matsumoto

The announcement was made by David K. Yoo, vice provost and professor of the Institute of American Cultures and acting director of the Asian American Studies Center; Stephen Aron, Robert N. Burr department chair and professor of the Department of History; and Victor Bascara, chair and associate professor of the Asian American Studies Department.

The Aratani Chair is the first and only one of its kind in American higher education. It supports the activities of a renowned scholar, specializing in research and teaching about the unjust incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese from the Americas during World War II, their subsequent postwar campaign to seek redress and a national apology, as well as in the issues, challenges, and trends of the Japanese American community.

Leaders in business and philanthropy, the Aratani family has provided remarkable and generous support of the Center for many years, including an endowed program for campus-community partnerships and an internship for UCLA students within the Japanese American community of greater Los Angeles.

Matsumoto holds a split appointment in the departments of History and Asian American Studies, and she is the author of “Farming the Home Place,” widely regarded as a classic in Japanese American and Asian American community studies. She also co-edited (with Blake Allmendinger) “Over the Edge: Remapping the American West.” Her newest book, “City Girls,” which focuses on Nisei women’s social networks before, during, and after World War II, is a major study that breaks new ground across several fields.

Matsumoto holds three degrees, all in U.S. history: B.A. from Arizona State University, M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University, and was the first Asian American woman to receive tenure in the UCLA History Department.

She was the inaugural recipient of the Center’s C. Doris and Toshio Hoshide Distinguished Teaching Prize in 2006, as well as the recipient of the university-wide Distinguished Teaching Award in 2007. She has chaired or been a member of hundreds of senior theses, MA theses and doctoral dissertations. The students Matsumoto has mentored are faculty members across the nation, award-winning writers, and leaders in society.

During her UCLA career, she has been an active member of the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Asian American Studies Center, serving as associate director, guest-editing Amerasia Journal and in many other capacities. She is an active consultant with many local and national museums, historical societies, and other organizations.

“It is a great honor to hold the Aratani Chair, which affirms the significance of Japanese American history, particularly in the light of on-going debates about civil liberties and racial profiling,” said Matsumoto. “The chair also provides a unique opportunity to acknowledge the dynamic networks and creativity of Japanese American communities, past and present.”

“We would also like to take this opportunity to recognize the distinguished tenure of the inaugural holder of the Aratani Chair, Professor Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, and to congratulate him on his recent retirement from UCLA,” said Yoo, Aron and Bascara, who asked faculty, staff and students to join them in congratulating Matsumoto.

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