BOOK TALK: American Sutra: Buddhism and the Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII

  • 22 Feb 2019
  • 4:15 PM - 6:00 PM
  • S020, Belfer Case Study Room, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA 02138

BOOK TALK - American Sutra: Buddhism and the Incarceration of Japanese Americans DUring World War II

Friday, February 22, 2019 from 4:15 PM to 6:00 PM

Followed by book signing and reception from 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM

S020, Belfer Case Study Room, CGIS South,
1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Presented by the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and Co-Sponsored by Japan Society of Boston, New England Japanese American Citizens League , Harvard Buddhist Studies Forum, Harvard Divinity School Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Pluralism Project, Program on U.S.-Japan Relations.

Duncan Ryūken Williams will discuss his new book American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom During the Second World War (Harvard University Press, Feb. 2019)  about Buddhism and the WWII Japanese American internment. The fact that the vast majority of Japanese Americans were Buddhists 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 interviews 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.


DIANA L. ECK, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies & Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society; Founder and Director, Pluralism Project, Harvard University    

STEPHEN PROTHERO, C. Allyn and Elizabeth V. Russell Professor of Religion, Boston University    


HELEN HARDACRE, Reischauer Institute Professor of Japanese Religions and Society, Harvard University

To learn more, please visit the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies event page.

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