Dr. Brett J. Esaki (Ph.D. in Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara) specializes in Asian American studies, with a focus on spirituality, popular culture, and comprehensive sustainability. He focuses on methods to examine religion on the ground, especially ethnography, cultural studies, and subjugated history. His publications detail how American minorities, including Asian Americans and African Americans, creatively use religion and art to preserve, to reinvent, and to discover a sense of their full humanity. He is the author of Enfolding Silence: The Transformation of Japanese American Religion and Art under Oppression (Oxford 2016). Dr. Esaki's teaching specialties include Asian American religions; religion and popular culture, including hip hop and other embodied arts; and history, ideology, and philosophy of race and in the United States.
Religion and Art; Religion and Popular Culture; Sustainability; Asian American Studies; African American Studies
Throughout the modern development of what has been called "spirituality" in the United States, Asian Pacific Americans along with Asian and Pacific Islander religions have been integral. In the mid-nineteenth century, Asian Pacific American (APA) immigrants brought their religions, and towards the end of the nineteenth century non-APAs enthusiastically brought APA religious teachers to the mainland United States. In the twentieth century, this mixture of APA people and religions continued to reach new communities and develop into independent US-based religions; eventually, these influenced the emergence of more individualistic, non-traditional forms of religion - popularly called 'spirituality.' These lines of influence crisscrossed over the decades, leading to a complex mixture of interests, investments, discourses, and depictions of different racial groups. As a result, this course's examination of Asian and Pacific religions in US-based spirituality engages questions about its definition in distinction to the term 'religion' and in relationship to the social dynamics of race. The course explores its presence in diverse locations such as medicine, theatre, environmental activism, and children's video games.