Caitlin Segundo, Undergraduate Intern

caitlin_fall2016_intern_webCaitlin Segundo, a UCI English major, interned with the Sawyer Seminar project during Fall quarter 2016 through the History Department undergraduate internship program.  Caitlin’s reflections on two events––Japanese Internment and War Diaries, as well as interviews with our graduate student fellows and  visiting assistant professor––are featured on the Documenting War website.  In this post, Caitlin tells us more about herself.

Why did you choose to major in English?

I chose to be an English major because my favorite thing to do has always been to read––all throughout my childhood, I was always found with a book in my hand. I also really enjoy creative writing, so I thought I would put my hobbies to work and decided to choose English as a career path in college.


What is a book you read recently that you really liked and why?

I just recently finished Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte; I really enjoyed reading this novel because of the supernatural and paranormal aspects Bronte intertwines into the storyline, making it a very interesting read.


What interested you in an internship with the Documenting War project?

I was of the undergrads at UCI who loved the Humanities Core Course, so when I was introduced to the Documenting War project I became immediately interested because a lot of the work done within the project overlaps with what I studied as a first year student in the Humanities Core lectures and seminars. I also think the goal of the project––advocacy of the experiences of soldiers, civilians, and journalists alike––is important.


What do you like best about being an undergraduate at UCI?

What I love most about being an undergraduate at UCI is the environment and the vibes; even during midterms and finals, the atmosphere remains calm and relaxed––especially in Aldrich Park, where I usually study. So while college itself is extremely stressful, UCI’s atmosphere plays a vital role in keeping me calm. Everyone here is also very friendly––from the professors to the students; everyone just enjoys helping each other out and it makes UCI that much better.


What would you like to do after you graduate?

After I graduate from UCI, I’d like to attend Law School and establish a career in either criminal law or immigration law depending on how the next couple of years go for me.

Olivia Humphrey, Graduate Student Fellow

olivia-humphreyOlivia Humphrey is a second-year PhD student in the Department of History at UCI.

Her current research focuses on military death and explores how it was both experienced and represented in popular media. “The ability to cast a critical eye over how a nation constructs patriotic narratives around the bones of its fallen soldiers––without necessarily detracting from the heroism of the deceased––is important across time and space,” she said, when asked about the significance of her research.

As a predoctoral fellow working with the Sawyer Seminar project Documenting War, she is responsible for helping organize the events held on campus and writing for the website.

She hopes that this experience will expand her research on revolutionary Russia (1904–24) allowing her move forward her dissertation project. Humphrey’s goals also include pushing her research in new directions; she looks forward to participating in Documenting War, because the project focuses more on visual material than the written sources that she is accustomed to working with as a history student.

When asked about the influence Documenting War will have on her research, she explained that the project’s ties to the community outside of the university would allow her to expand her audience. Humphrey hopes to reach out to those for whom her own research claims to speak: soldiers, veterans and families who have lost loved ones in military conflicts.

David Michael Woods, Graduate Student Fellow

davidDavid Michael Woods is a graduate student in the Department of English at UCI. His research explores the relationship between religious meaning and literary expression, particularly honing in on the religious trajectory of romance as a literary genre.

Within the project Documenting War, his role includes assisting the senior scholars, organizing exhibitions, and events, and introducing an early modern and literary studies of war. Woods looks forward to testing the “narrative techniques of soldiers’ letters and personal reflections” against his own line of research in regards to the “narratological features of romance” to find out what kind of resources soldiers have used to reconcile “the disparity between expectation and reality.”

As a graduate fellow, one of his goals is to connect scholars through the diverse opportunities offered by the Sawyer Seminar. He also hopes to explore the kind of narrative reflections of soldiers in a more contemporary frame in order to understand their personal experiences.

When asked how Documenting War would influence his work, he answered that he hoped to gain a sense of how certain narratological structures––from romanticism as a genre to the more contemporary works of soldiers––“were reinvigorated or reconfigured to suit diverse experiences,” cultural views and the expectations of those at war.

Reflection: War Diaries Exhibit

Wednesday, November 9th marked the date of the opening of the War Diaries exhibit at the Viewpoint Gallery within UCI’s Student Center.

The exhibit showcased blown up portions of heart-wrenching diaries donated to the School of Humanities by Tim McLaughlin, a Marine Corps Tank Commander stationed in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. It was set up so that, while walking through the exhibit, you could read the diaries in order, allowing for the audience to feel what McLaughlin was feeling when he sat down to write the entries.

Along with the diary entries, the exhibit also showcased texts written by journalist and write Peter Maass and photos taken by photojournalist Gary Knight. By seeing this work, juxtaposed to that of the memoir-like diary entries posted high on the walls of the exhibit, I felt as though I was taken into the Iraq war itself, because not only was I getting the perspective from a Tank Commander, I was receiving an arguably more objective perspective from the texts by Knight, while the photographs set the stage up for both.


To tie it all together, the exhibit featured a video installation of actual news footage from 2003 that successfully took the audience back to when the invasion of Iraq had just begun.

This collaboration of work successfully illuminated the perspectives of people stationed in Iraq, fighting the war and documenting the horrors of it through journalism or photography. It also allowed insight of the experiences of those back home, witnessing the horrors of war through the lens of such journalists and photographers. It sustains the importance of being able to document experiences, in order to recreate similar scenarios, essentially keeping the stories told by so many people, alive.

The War Diaries Exhibit was successful in allowing us, outsiders, a glimpse into the experience of the Iraq War through the lens of Tim McLaughlin, Gary Knight, and Peter Maass.

Reflection: Japanese Internment

On October 13, professors from the University of California, Riverside, the University of California, Merced, and Occidental College in Los Angeles, joined us on campus to discuss Japanese Internment on American soil during the 1940s.

Professor Jason Weems of the Department of History at UCR introduced the way Americans viewed the Japanese American citizens after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His lecture included depictions of Japanese cartoons used to “educate the ignorant American eye” and teach how to differentiate between the fellow Chinese and the alien-enemy “Japs.”

This set the tone for paintings also included in his lecture, such as “The Yellow Danger,” and “The Yellow Peril” which both illuminated the racism against Japanese Americans as they were depicted to have exaggerated “Japanese” features, much like the cartoons he had presented earlier. “Dragon-like” representations of the Japanese soldiers were also commonly seen in paintings, while US Military propaganda depicted them as aggressive and hostile.

Paintings like Bloody Saturday (1937), by artist H. S. Wong, in juxtaposition to the other paintings, worked in the opposite way, shedding light onto the severity of the internment of Japanese Americans, most of whom were born in the United States and had no ties to Japan at all. This, the professor pointed out, showed how the fear Americans felt insinuated the actions taken against the Japanese after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

But inside the camps, art was a force that worked differently.

Photographs, paintings and other forms of art were not used to depict the horrors of incarceration. Rather, these forms of art were used to “make violence beautiful,” said Professor Weems. They were ways in which the Japanese normalized their experiences, so as to have normal boundaries for their families to reside in.

Moonlight Over Topaz (1942), as presented by the visiting professor from UCM, illuminated the same normalization of life within the camps. He argued, the Japanese painted in order to keep the hope for freedom alive amongst the community within the barbed wires.

Chiura Obata, Moonlight Over Topaz, 1942.
Chiura Obata, Moonlight Over Topaz, 1942.

It was when this professor pointed towards the use of art as a form of aestheticizing traumatic experience, that I was left in awe. I had never thought of this––but this is what the Japanese did while incarcerated unjustly; they manipulated the concept of beauty and used it as a coping mechanism in order to maintain a sense of normality and to express their imagination. This expression was their only form of keeping what power they had left while still behind the barbed wires.

A lot of what the Documenting War project does gives voice to individuals whose voices have been drowned out by larger forces––these guests and their lectures all proved successful in doing so: in giving voices to the Japanese interned within the concentration camps on American soil––a wrongdoing that, although has stained our country, is too often not spoken about.