Asael T. Hansen


Name Asael T. Hansen
Born November 21 1903
Died March 5 1991
Birth Location Utah

Anthropologist and community analyst at Heart Mountain in 1944–45.

Asael Tanner Hansen (1903–91) was born and raised in Utah and graduated from Utah State Agricultural College in 1926. He went on to the University of Wisconsin, graduating with a Ph.D. in anthropology in 1931 with a dissertation on the Mormon church. He subsequently spent three years in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico as part of a Robert Redfield-led team studying the Maya that resulted in The Folk Culture of the Yucatan published by the University of Chicago Press in 1941. Hansen took a position as an assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio, in 1935. He took a leave from that position to work for the War Relocation Authority.[1]

Hansen spent a little under two years as the community analyst at Heart Mountain. He arrived in January 1944, succeeding sociologist Forrest LaViolette, who had left the position after a six month stint. Working out of an office in the inmate section of the camp, he arrived just in time to document the crisis over Nisei eligibility to the draft being restored and the subsequent draft resistance crisis, as well as other aspects of camp politics and the closing down of the camp. In his role as community analyst, he produced weekly trend reports and well as special reports on a variety of topics for the consumption of the Camp Director Guy Robertson and other staff at Heart Mountain as well as the Community Analysis Section staff in Washington, DC. He left Heart Mountain for six weeks in August and September 1945 to spend time at Gila River. He stayed on beyond the closing of the camp, leaving Heart Mountain on December 1, 1945. Hansen spent the next several months in Washington, DC, with fellow community analysts Edward Spicer, Katharine Luomala, and Marvin K. Opler authoring The Impounded People: Japanese Americans in the Relocation Centers, one of several official War Relocation Authority publications on aspects of the mass removal and incarceration. [2]

He returned to the University of Miami, but spent the summer of 1946 in the San José, California, area as part of a Department of Interior study on the postwar adaptation of Japanese Americans that was directed by Robert M. Cullum, who had been the Cleveland area supervisor for the War Relocation Authority (WRA). The study ultimately resulted in the publication People in Motion: The Postwar Adjustment of the Evacuated Japanese Americans (Washington, DC: War Agency Liquidation Unit, [1947]).[3]

Hansen left Miami in 1947 to join the department of anthropology and sociology at Michigan State University, joining former WRA colleague Solon T. Kimball. Just a year later, Kimbell and Hansen left to start a new department of sociology and anthropology at the University of Alabama. Hansen would spend the rest of his academic career there, becoming an emeritus professor in 1974. He passed away in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1991.[4]

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Hansen, Asael. "Heart Mountain Relocation Center Community Analyst Section Final Report." January 24, 1944 to December 1, 1945. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

———"Community Analysis at Heart Mountain Relocation Center." Applied Anthropology 5.3 (1946): 15–25.

———. "Back Home in Santa Clara Valley." Pacific Citizen, Dec. 21, 1946, p. 10, 14, 15, 16.

———. “My Two Years at Heart Mountain: The Difficult Role of an Applied Anthropologist.” In Japanese Americans: From Relocation to Redress. Edited by Roger Daniels, Sandra C. Taylor, and Harry H. L. Kitano. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1986. Revised edition. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991. 33-37.

"History of the Department." Department of Anthropology. University of Alabama.

People in Motion: The Postwar Adjustment of the Evacuated Japanese Americans. Washington, DC: War Agency Liquidation Unit, [1947]. [Hansen's field reports on Santa Clara County from the summer of 1946 are in The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Digital Archive at the University of California, Berkeley.]

Price, David H. Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2008.

Spicer, Edward H., Asael T. Hansen, Katharine Luomala, and Marvin K. Opler. The Impounded People: Japanese Americans in the Relocation Centers. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Interior, 1946. With new introduction by Edward H. Spicer. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1969.

Footnotes

  1. National Research Council, International Directory of Anthropologists, Section I: Western Hemisphere (Washington, DC, 1940) 60; Asael T. Hansen, "My Two Years at Heart Mountain: The Difficult Role of an Applied Anthropologist," in Japanese Americans: From Relocation to Redress, edited by Roger Daniels, Sandra C. Taylor, and Harry H. L. Kitano (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991), 33; Robert Redfield, The Folk Culture of the Yucatan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1941), xii.
  2. Asael Hansen, "Community Analysis at Heart Mountain Relocation Center," Applied Anthropology 5.3 (1946): 15–25; Hansen, "My Two Years"; Edward H. Spicer, Asael T. Hansen, Katharine Luomala, and Marvin K. Opler, The Impounded People: Japanese Americans in the Relocation Centers (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Interior, 1946), iv; Asael Hansen, "Heart Mountain Relocation Center Community Analyst Section Final Report," January 24, 1944 to December 1, 1945, The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley, accessed May 20, 2014 at http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft158003fn/.
  3. Pacific Citizen, July 13, 1946, p. 5, http://www.pacificcitizen.org/digitalarchives/assets/images/full/PCN_19460713_005.jpg; and July 27, 1946, http://www.pacificcitizen.org/digitalarchives/assets/images/full/PCN_19460727_003.jpg, both accessed on March 28, 2014.
  4. Pacific Citizen, Aug. 16, 1947, p. 6, http://www.pacificcitizen.org/digitalarchives/assets/images/full/PCN_19470816_006.jpg; "History of the Department," Department of Anthropology, University of Alabama. http://anthropology.ua.edu/check/5/; "College of Arts and Sciences," University of Alabama Undergraduate Catalog 2010–12, all accessed on March 28, 2014; Fifth International Directory of Anthropologists, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975, 151.