Professor Williams will discuss his new book “American Sutra” about Buddhism and the WWII Japanese American internment. The fact that the vast majority of Japanese Americans were Buddhist was responsible for why nearly 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, two-third of whom were American citizens, were targeted for forcible removal from the Pacific coast states and incarcerated in remote interior camps surrounded by barbed wire. Ironically, their Buddhist faith also was also what helped the Japanese American community endure and persist at a time of dislocation, loss, and uncertainty. Based on newly translated Japanese-language diaries of Buddhist priests from the camps, extensive interview with survivors of the camps, and newly declassified government documents about how Buddhism was seen as a national security threat, Williams argues that Japanese American Buddhists launched one of the most inspiring defenses of religious freedom in U.S. history.
Following the talk, there will be a book signing at the Yale Bookstore (77 Broadway) from 6:15 PM to 7:00 PM.
This talk is co-sponsored by the Council on East Asian Studies; Department of Religious Studies; Yale Law School Legal History Forum; Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration (RITM), Ethnicity, Race, and Migration (ERM), American Studies, and the Asian American Cultural Center.