Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan
Nov
13
4:30 PM16:30

Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan

Americans stationed in occupied Japan at the close of World War II claimed to be bringing religious freedom to a country where it did not exist. They described Japan’s 1889 constitutional guarantee of religious freedom as a fake, and they claimed to be implanting “real religious freedom” in its stead. But in making such claims, the occupiers overlooked inconvenient historical facts. Countering the victors’ narrative, Jolyon Thomas shows that Japanese people were actually involved in a robust debate about religious freedom for decades before the occupation began; he also demonstrates that the American occupiers were far less certain about how to define and protect religious freedom than their triumphalist rhetoric suggested. And whereas post-Occupation histories have commonly assumed that the occupiers introduced the human right of religious freedom to Japan, Thomas argues that the inherently transnational circumstances of military occupation prompted stakeholders to conceive religious freedom as a "human right" in the first place. Along the way, the occupiers and their Japanese counterparts collaboratively constructed a new technical vocabulary about “good” and “bad” religion. The categories they developed in the late 1940s still dictate how academics, journalists, and policymakers working today imagine who deserves religious freedom, what kinds of political practices infringe on religious liberty, and who bears responsibility for doing anything about it.

University of Vermont, Aiken Center 102. 

 
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Nov
16
9:30 AM09:30

Study of Religion as an Analytical Discipline Workshop (Denver)

Workshop Premise:

Race (and Racialization) and the Analytical Study of Religion (PDF)

SORAAAD 2018

Friday, November 16, 2018, Denver, CO

“(The ideas) of Racecraft govern what goes with what and whom (sumptuary codes), how different people must deal with each other (rituals of deference and dominance), where human kinship begins and ends (blood), and how Americans look at themselves and each other (the gaze). These ideas do not exist purely in the mind, or only in the mind. They are social facts - like six o’clock, both an idea and a reality. Because Racecraft exists this way, its constant remaking constantly retreats from view. This, “now you see it, now you don’t” quality is what makes racism  - the practice of a double standard based on ancestry - possible.” 

                        Karen E. Fields and Barbara J Fields, “A Tour of Racecraft,” Racecraft

“Evidence of the changing and inconsistent composition of racialized groups, and definitions of racial difference in the course of modern history, suggests that "race" must be recognized as at least as unstable, at least as contingent, as subject to the same historical contexts that have continually reproduced and reconstituted class, gender, and other social formations. Evidence for the inextricability of racial formation from other historical processes emerges in the frequent observation that the "new racism" of the late nineteenth century accompanied rising antisemitism, including pogroms, and the Dreyfus Affair, and enhanced class stratification in Europe. Yet how do we comprehend the relationship between race and other historical processes? “

                Laura Tabili, “Race is a Relationship and Not a Thing.” 

How do we design research and collect data on race, the processes of racialization, and religion? How do we trace their intersections with disability, gender, orientation, and class while also challenging the idea that race or phenotypic preoccupation is a universal mode of human aggregation? How do we rejoin attention to these issues along with different scales of social and political aggregation and power? To address these issues and more, we are pleased to announce that Rudy Busto, Kelly Baker, Jolyon Thomas, Chloe Martinez, Jens Kreinath, and Kevin Gannon will share their work and insights.

SORAAAD asserts that all discussions of race, racialization, and religion necessarily factor into larger social scientific discussions regarding principles of representation and responsible uses of evidence. At the same time we recognize that research on race and religion needs to integrate other facets of human existence and modes of aggregation, such as politics, economics, culture, and organizations, and these at varied scales.  Multiple disciplines are working now to decolonize themselves, and yet such efforts exist often alongside—and sometimes overlap with—others to defend empire. How do we construct studies of race that are not trapped in narratives of white supremacy or the impacts of colonialism retrojected over time? And how do we construct studies of race and religion that capture these categories as discursive sites and constructive processes? 

In its 8th annual workshop, SORAAAD is happy to host an alliance of scholars to discuss the state of different initiatives to correct public and scholarly understandings of race. Drawing on research from across the humanities and social sciences, and noting also new advances in the digital humanities that provide unprecedented access to primary sources, we ask together: How do we revisit the data of human history?


Jolyon Thomas, University of Pennsylvania

“Japanese People Don’t See Race”: Linguistic Tics, Ambient Norms, and the Constructed Qualities of Race and Religion in Japan

While the concepts of “race” (jinshu) and “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu) exist in contemporary Japanese, these terms feature as loan words that fit imperfectly with the English terms that they translate. Japanese perceptions of race are no less real for that fact, but Japanese sensitivities about race manifest themselves somewhat differently than, say, American perceptions of the same. For example, references to Japaneseness pervade daily conversation, from overheard conversations in coffeeshops to nighttime news broadcasts. The idea of Japaneseness cloaks personal opinion with the mantle of common sense, renders specific dispositions aspects of a timeless culture, and censures undesirable behavior while establishing social norms. Little of this discussion is about race as such, but the language of Japaneseness creates a social center that tolerates, but does not fully include, marginal communities (Brown 2006). Insensitivity to racial discrimination appears in the continued Japanese use of blackface in comedic situations, the ubiquity of minstrel kitsch in Japanese bars and cafes, nostalgia for Nazi paraphernalia in Japanese sub-communities, and casual indifference to the continuing marginal status of Japanese-born Koreans (now fourth-generation, but technically not fully “Japanese,” immigrants; Chung 2010) and traditional outcaste communities (burakumin; see Bondy 2014).    

Building on the constructivist insight that both race and religion are invented categories that exist as socially dependent facts but not as ahistorical essences, in this presentation I look at some ways that religion and race intertwine in Japanese public life. Critically examining language that appears in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s draft constitution of 2012 and the revised Fundamental Law on Education (FLE) of 2006, I show that majoritarian approaches to constitutional revision and national legislation would render some aspects of religion as facets of a timeless Japanese culture. Specifically, by making Shinto essentially Japanese (it is not), conservative lawmakers can make public sponsorship of shrine rites immune from allegations of violating the constitutional principle of religion-state separation. Furthermore, by defining Japaneseness quite narrowly, lawmakers can restrict political participation to people bearing linguistic fluency (a high exclusionary hurdle given that Japanese is among the most difficult foreign languages to master), a narrow phenotype (e.g., black hair), and set of fetishized cultural dispositions (e.g., “harmony,” wa) that may include ritual practices. Not all of these ideals appear explicitly in the draft charter or the FLE, but by tying these legal issues to recent debates over the role of morality and patriotism in public schools, I show that children learn a type of racist thinking that refuses the language of race and a type of religious thinking that eschews explicit mention of religion.

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Nov
17
1:00 PM13:00

Schooling the Courts: Education as Site and Source for Religion and Law beyond the Courts

A panel hosted by the Law, Religion, and Culture Unit and the Secularism & Secularity Unit at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (Denver)

Panel abstract:

Public schools are noted sites of legal battles over the religion clauses of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Yet, even as scholars have noted the significance of religion and law outside the courts, few have turned their attention to public schools and education as sites and sources of religious practice, organizing, and debate. Building on work that denaturalizes the court-centric categories of religious freedom and establishment, this panel aims to decenter American legal definitions of religion altogether in scholarship on twentieth- and twenty-first- century religion and public education. With papers on corporations and patriotic education in mid-twentieth century Japan and America, government aid to parochial schools and public school desegregation in 1967 New York State, homeownership and the Islamic school movement, and contemporary Holocaust education, the panel will take an interdisciplinary and transnational approach to explore themes such as secular governance, corporate influence, race, respectability, and national identity.


Jolyon Thomas, University of Pennsylvania

Inculcating Corporate Morality in Public Schools: A Comparative Look at Japan and the U.S.

This paper uses archival materials from Cold War-era Japan and the United States to examine corporate influence on public school education, especially as related to morality and patriotism. While morality and patriotism training in public schools serve obvious disciplining functions by socializing students in preparation for civic life, they also serve ideological functions by preparing humans to accept the potentially dehumanizing demands of the workforce as normal and natural. Punishment and rewards systems in schools inculcate allegiance, obedience, and specific modes of comportment. Training in morality and civics gives students concrete tools to distinguish “right” from “wrong.” Because corporations play major roles in curriculum development and because training in morality and civics overlaps with implicit religious norms and ideals, the academic study of religion can benefit from sustained inquiry into the complicated relationship between morality, patriotism, and corporate interests in postwar Japan and the United States.

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Nov
17
3:30 PM15:30

Religion and the Constitution in Contemporary Japan

A panel hosted by the Japanese Religions Unit and the Law, Religion, and Culture Unit at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (Denver)

Panel abstract:

After Abe Shinzō became prime minister of Japan for a second time in 2012, he soon signaled that constitutional reform would become one of the flagship issues of his administration. As of 2018, Abe is closer to initiating the process of reforming Japan’s 1947 constitution than any other prime minister of the postwar period. While attempts to reform Article 9 tend to gain much attention, other aspects of postwar Japanese society that could be the target of significant reform include the principles of religious freedom and the separation of religion from the state. Article 20 of the 1947 constitution provides the basis for these principles, while at the same time forcing Japan as a constitutional democracy to deal with “religion” as a legal category. The papers of this panel explore issues related to “religion” and Japan’s postwar constitution from various perspectives, historical as well as contemporary.

 


Jolyon Thomas, University of Pennsylvania

Religion and the Controversial Subject of Constitutional Law

In the last two decades conservatives in Japan have experimented with ways to revise the postwar constitution. The redefinition of the capacities of the Self-Defense Force during the Iraq War, the 2006 revision of the Fundamental Law on Education, and the 2017 passage of anti-conspiracy legislation have all presaged a concerted push for constitutional revision. Notable among these initiatives is the LDP draft constitution of 2012. The draft document preserved the idiosyncratic constitutional language of “fundamental human rights,” but it also refocused attention on duties over rights, granted rights to “persons” (hito) rather than “individuals” (kojin) and treated the household, not the individual, as the fundamental legal unit of society. Building on recent advances in the critical study of religion and religious freedom, this paper interrogates what sort of human the LDP proposal imagines and how the proposed revisions change the way religion might be free in Japan.

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Apr
7
to Apr 9

Religion and Its Many American Publics (Lehigh University)

In recent years, scholars of religion and American studies have agreed that our public contributions as humanists and social scientists are vital. Recent innovative work in journalism, environmental studies, popular and material cultures, affect studies, race, ethnicity, gender studies, and the digital humanities has shown us just how much can be said at the intersection of Religious Studies and American Studies. What are our ethical responsibilities for bringing our disciplines to bear in simultaneously learning about and educating a diverse American public in a transnational vein? This symposium brings together an eclectic mix of scholars for innovative roundtables on key themes in studying religion as a public production—and studying religion in public-- at the turn of the twenty-first century, at a time when intellectuals are charting new pathways for public engagement.

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