PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

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  • Full Papers Available
Transnational Religious Expression: Between Asia and North America Seminar
Theme: Authenticity and Appropriation: Transnational Religion amid Competing Forces of Identity and Authority
Merin Shobhana Xavier, Queen's University, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 310A (Third Level)

How is transnational religious expression impacted by competing ideas of identity, authority, authenticity, and appropriation? How can we address these complex factors in our scholarship? The third meeting of our five-year seminar brings together scholars working across multiple traditions, geographies, and eras to share insights into these issues, the “messiness” of transnational religion, and the multidirectional processes that complicate institutional, national, and cultural boundaries as religious ideas, technologies, and actors move between Asia and North America. As in previous years, papers will be posted in advance on the AAR website to ensure ample time for discussion during our meeting. We welcome new and returning participants to this ongoing conversation.

Scott Mitchell, Institute of Buddhist Studies
Mid-Century Modern: Transnational Japanese-American Buddhism

This study focuses on a mid-twentieth century newsletter-cum-literary journal, The Berkeley Bussei. Following the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Bussei, an annual publication of the Berkeley Buddhist Temple, published essays by temple members and Beat Generation poets and writers. Interspersed between poetry and gossip columns were serious reflections on the nature of American Buddhism, reflections voiced from the intersection of race and religion. This paper focuses on contributions by young Japanese Americans traveling between the United States and Japan and demonstrates the complexity of interstitial identities in the post-war years, identities forged at the intersection of race, religion, and transnationalism. I argue that attention to the development of a specifically Japanese-American Buddhist identity productively complicates our understanding of both American Buddhism and Buddhist modernism.

Jeyoul Choi, University of Florida
Transnationalism and First Generation Korean-American Evangelical Protestantism: A Case Study

Studies of first generation Korean-American Protestant churches in the United States have often monolithically depicted these churches as diasporic socio-cultural spaces that primarily reproduce Korean ethnicity, while neglecting to pay attention to their transnational character. I identify disagreements over theology and church administration that separate church members into pejorative ethnic “Koreanness” vs. more desirable assimilated “United Methodist” camps. In this theo-political struggle, the term “Korean churches” is employed as a transnational resources to identify “degrading/outdated aspects” of the congregation, while the appropriation of United Methodism’s “modernizing/advanced aspects” is seen by many as a more “authentic” Christian development. These local intra-church disagreements and their appropriations of these terms, in turn, point to larger transnational debates within Korean-American Protestantism.

Anya Foxen, California Polytechnic State University, SLO
Rhizomes and Inosculations: Untangling Modern Postural Yoga

This paper is based on a larger project that seeks to reconfigure the historiography of modern postural yoga. The basic premise is that if we are to understand modern yoga as a transnational practice, then we must examine its host contexts with equal rigor to its previously established Indian roots. When we do so, we discover a Western history of practice that was overwritten by the imported language of yoga, thereby becoming invisible. In this form, it has continually been used to inform and occasionally to colonize the category of Indian yoga. Modern transnational yoga is ultimately a deeply syncretized and amalgamate entity resulting from the interaction of Indian yogic traditions with this Western body of thought and practice, among others. Thus, in debates over appropriation, it is a profound mistake to treat the dominant culture as a tabula rasa onto which distorted versions of colonized practices are simply imposed.

Troy Mikanovich, Claremont Graduate University
Leveraging Authenticity at the 2018 Parliament of the World's Religions

By articulating its project as the promotion of “interreligious harmony, rather than unity,” the Parliament of the World's Religions recognizes the way that religious particularity is complicated by any haphazard mandate for pluralism. However, because the Parliament engages the public through a variety of modes—operating as a theological conference, a gathering place for social activists, and an occasion for spiritual tourism—issues of authenticity and appropriation are necessarily animated, with the lines between “harmony” and “unity” blurring into something more challenging, still. Drawing from interview data gathered at the 2018 meeting of the Parliament of the World's Religions in Toronto, this paper will argue that, in such a context, religious authenticity does not merely exist as a quality to be measured between competing traditions. Rather, it becomes available as a leveraging quantity—one that can be selectively deployed to support marginalized traditions or, ironically, to justify an embattled posture against perceived orthodoxy.

Elizabeth Williams-Oerberg, University of Copenhagen
The “Messiness” of Religious Belonging at Transnational Tibetan Buddhist Lineage Anniversaries in Ladakh, India

The summer months in the Northwest Indian region of Ladakh bring hundreds of thousands of visitors who wish to experience the ‘Last Shangri-La’, or the last remaining bastion of Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh become main tourism destinations during the short tourist season. Tibetan Buddhist leaders who spend the large part of the year touring Asia, North America and Europe come to Ladakh during these busy summer months, and at times preside over larger monastery festivals or events. At such occasions, a wide variety of audience are present – from Ladakhi Buddhists whose families have been patrons of the monasteries and their lineages for generations, to transnational pilgrims who visit this Himalayan Buddhist area for the first time in order to catch a glimpse of these renowned Buddhist teachers. While at first glance these varieties of audience seem entirely distinct, in taking a closer look, the “messiness” of religious belonging becomes acutely apparent.

Elijah Siegler, College of Charleston
Business Meeting:
Lucas Carmichael, University of Colorado