I just finished my interview with James Hirabayashi, Professor Emeritus at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Professor Hirabayashi was Dean of the nation’s first school of Ethnic Studies, which started at SFSU after the longest student strike in US history. Unlike most Densho interviews, which take a life-history approach, my interview with Professor Hirabayashi (or Jim, as he insisted on being called) began with his experiences in academia, as an undergraduate at the University of Washington. Our interview touched on several milestones in his professional life – as a Fulbright Fellow conducting fieldwork in Japan; his PhD studies at Harvard; working in rural Nigeria; involvement with the Asian American Political Alliance and student strike at SFSU; his tenure as Dean of Ethnic Studies; the influence of his brother, Gordon Hirabayashi, on his own activism.
On a personal note, it was a real honor to interview Jim today. As a student of Ethnic Studies and as someone about to embark on a career in academia, I will continue to benefit from his groundbreaking work. He (and others) really paved the way for someone like me to succeed and even thrive in academia while continuing to question and challenge the status quo.