History Major Wins Lankford Award for Thesis on WWII Atrocities

By Rain Surname ’99 | August 30, 2018

History major Ian Buckman ’18 has won the William T. Lankford III Award for his thesis “Down to Their Level: The Logic of Savagery and American Mutilations of Japanese War Dead.”

Ian placed the American mutilation of Japanese war dead during WWII within the broader context of American history by comparing the manner in which wartime media depicted the Japanese with earlier depictions of Native Americans, who had previously been the target of widespread mutilation. Just as Native Americans were portrayed as being inherently violent, savage, and dangerous to the very existence of the United States, so too were the Japanese portrayed as being fundamentally incompatible with American civilization. This dehumanization allowed the taking of trophies from Native American and Japanese bodies to become a surprisingly common practice.

Prof. Lara Netting ’98 [history 2017-18] said that Ian’s materials “ranged from the 18th century Magnalia Christi Americana to the Last of the Mohicans to 20th-century films, media reports, and soldiers’ memoirs… Ian skillfully probed all of his sources, considering the problematic nature of memoirs and highlighting visual propaganda techniques. Yet his ability to compare narratives across time and media particularly shone.”

And Prof. Michael Breen [history and humanities 2000–] called it “an outstanding thesis, bursting with original research, tightly argued, richly documented, and sophisticated in its engagement with the historical literature.”

Ian thanked his thesis adviser Prof. Lara Netting “for being a supportive, kind, and helpful presence throughout my process.” He also thanked Prof. Darius Rejali [poli sci 1989–], whose class gave me my thesis idea in the first place.”

The Lankford is given to students who explore the relationship between history and literature, in honor of Prof. Bill Lankford (1946–1983), who taught English and humanities at Reed from 1977 until his untimely death in 1983.

Tags: Academics, Cool Projects, Awards & Achievements, Students, Thesis