The Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium (JACSC) has appointed Rob Buscher as its new executive director.
“We have found in Rob a leader who brings considerable experience in the leadership of non-profit arts organizations,” said Ann Burroughs, JACSC chair. “As a scholar, curator and film maker, he is a consummate story teller who is passionately committed to telling the stories and preserving the history of Japanese Americans. He comes to us with a vision for the future of JACSC that has resonated strongly with us.”
Buscher takes up his new role on Nov. 6.
“I am honored and humbled to take on this position at what I see as a critical juncture in our community’s story,” said Buscher. “In the coming decade we will likely lose the majority of our remaining incarceration survivors, whose lived experiences and personal testimonies have been the foundation of the pilgrimage movement and other efforts to memorialize the wartime incarceration. We must continue to educate future generations about the grave injustices endured by our Japanese American community during the wartime and the tremendous resilience demonstrated by our success in the postwar era.
“To do this work effectively, we will need to find new ways to tell these stories in the absence of our survivors, so that their legacy can be preserved and shared with Americans of all backgrounds. As we navigate this next difficult chapter, I believe JACSC can play an important role in convening its member organizations around a shared vision for how to take this work forward.”
A mixed-race Yonsei based in Philadelphia, Buscher is deeply embedded in the East Coast Japanese American and broader Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, where he has lived and worked since 2010. Born and raised in rural/suburban Connecticut, he moved to Philadelphia after five years abroad in the U.K. and Japan. He completed his BA in communications at Richmond The American International University in London and MA in Japan studies at the University of London.
Joining the board of the Philadelphia Chapter of Japanese American Citizens League in 2012, Buscher has served as chapter president since 2018 and held other positions in the JACL National Council, including editorial board chair of the **Pacific Citizen** newspaper (2019-2022).
As a film and media specialist, Buscher has held leadership positions in nonprofit arts organizations for over a decade, including the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, which he helmed for six seasons.
He has also pursued a secondary career in academia that he started in 2012 as a part-time lecturer in Japan studies at Arcadia University. In 2017, he joined the faculty of University of Pennsylvania’sAsian American Studies Program, where he currently teaches courses on Asian American cinema and Asian American activism. His recent research focuses largely on the postwar resettlement of Japanese Americans into the Greater Philadelphia region, and the role that arts and culture have played in historic Japanese American community movements.
Buscher’s family was forcibly removed from their farm and home in present-day Gardena/Torrance in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Choosing to self-relocate during the so-called “voluntary evacuation,” his great-grandparents, obaachan and her siblings were spared from the indignity of wartime incarceration. However, losing everything they worked to establish over several decades, they were forced to rebuild their lives in the outer suburbs of Ogden, Utah like so many other families during the postwar era.
Through extended family who were incarcerated during the war, Buscher has personal ties to Rohwer, Minidoka, and Crystal City.
He has curated several public exhibitions related to Japanese American and Asian American history, including the “American Peril” exhibit (2018, 2020) of anti-Asian racial propaganda, “The Third Space” virtual photo exhibition (2021) juxtaposing War Relocation Authority propaganda with the lived experiences of Japanese Americans, and “Okaeri (Welcome Home): The Nisei Legacy at Shofuso” (2023).
Some of his recent multimedia productions include Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation’s 13-episode podcast “Look Toward the Mountain” (2021), and PBS WHYY’s six-episode television talk series “Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders: A Philadelphia Story” (2022).
The Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium is composed of organizations committed to collectively preserving, protecting, and interpreting the history of the World War II experiences of Japanese Americans and elevating the related social justice lessons that inform current issues today. Members include WRA confinement sites, as well as historical organizations, endowments, museums, commissions, educational institutions and individuals. Info: www.jacsc.org/whoweare