Presentation Title

Marking Time and Making Identity: Rites of Passage Events and Festivals in the Creation of Japanese American Buddhist Community Life in the Incarceration Camps

Presenter Information

Carol BeckettFollow

Faculty Mentor

Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa

Start Date

23-11-2019 10:30 AM

End Date

23-11-2019 10:45 AM

Location

Markstein 210

Session

oral 2

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

In December 1941 the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked Pearl Harbor. What followed was mass hysteria and accusations that Japanese Americans were enemies of the nation. This led to the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans along the West coast and Hawai’i. Recent scholarship by Duncan Ryuken Williams has argued that religion, specifically Buddhism, played a large role in the reasoning behind the incarceration of and discrimination against Japanese American families. Buddhist ministers from all different sects were arrested and sent to different camps. However, although the camps constricted their physical movement, Buddhists ministers were able to cultivate a community that transcended time and space to foster solidarity and support among all incarcerated Japanese Ameicans. One method that they used to cultivate this community was the organized practice of important annual festivals such as Hanamatsuri and Obon and life cycle rites of passage, including birthdays and funerals. This community bond allowed Japanese Americans to normalize the passage of time in less than normal circumstances by sharing significant life events as a community. This in turn inspired Japanese American Buddhists to connect with their Japanese heritage and created a space where that heritage could be celebrated. This paper will discussions of these festivals and life cycle rites from the memoirs and diaries of Buddhist ministers and other issei to examine how, even as it became a reason for their persecution, Buddhism also created community identity for incarcerated Japanese Americans.

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Nov 23rd, 10:30 AM Nov 23rd, 10:45 AM

Marking Time and Making Identity: Rites of Passage Events and Festivals in the Creation of Japanese American Buddhist Community Life in the Incarceration Camps

Markstein 210

In December 1941 the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked Pearl Harbor. What followed was mass hysteria and accusations that Japanese Americans were enemies of the nation. This led to the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans along the West coast and Hawai’i. Recent scholarship by Duncan Ryuken Williams has argued that religion, specifically Buddhism, played a large role in the reasoning behind the incarceration of and discrimination against Japanese American families. Buddhist ministers from all different sects were arrested and sent to different camps. However, although the camps constricted their physical movement, Buddhists ministers were able to cultivate a community that transcended time and space to foster solidarity and support among all incarcerated Japanese Ameicans. One method that they used to cultivate this community was the organized practice of important annual festivals such as Hanamatsuri and Obon and life cycle rites of passage, including birthdays and funerals. This community bond allowed Japanese Americans to normalize the passage of time in less than normal circumstances by sharing significant life events as a community. This in turn inspired Japanese American Buddhists to connect with their Japanese heritage and created a space where that heritage could be celebrated. This paper will discussions of these festivals and life cycle rites from the memoirs and diaries of Buddhist ministers and other issei to examine how, even as it became a reason for their persecution, Buddhism also created community identity for incarcerated Japanese Americans.