American Academy of Religion: 23-26 November 2013, Baltimore, MD

I am in Baltimore for the next few days for the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion. There are a ton of people to meet here, as well as a meeting for the steering committee of the Asian North American Religions, Cultures, and Society (ANARCS) group that I need to attend. While the conference lasts until 26 November, I’m actually taking off Monday (25th) afternoon.

Before that, tomorrow I will be in a paper session titled ‘Re-membering Home: Indigenous and Colonial Encounters in Asian North American Religious Spaces.‘  Devin Singh (Yale University) will preside over this panel, which is formed by Melissa Borja (CUNY Staten Island), Ren Ito (Emmanuel College, Toronto), and JuneHee Yoon (Drew University). We are very privileged to have Lisa Rose Mar (University of Maryland, College Park) as our discussant.

My paper is titled ‘Strategies of reconciliation: First Nations and Cantonese evangelicals in Vancouver, BC.’ Here’s the abstract:

This paper performs an empirical analysis of how Cantonese evangelicals have ministered to First Nations populations in British Columbia. Based on 50 key informant interviews and three focus groups, I argue that Cantonese-speaking evangelicals recognize to some extent their duty to help First Nations either through charity or through social justice lobbying as an extension of living out an evangelical understanding of the Gospel. However, these understandings are differential based on their comprehension of orientalization and how to practice evangelical theology based on experiences of racialization. I consider three approaches: a progressive evangelical theology that mandates policy advocacy, a conservative evangelical practice that emphasizes charity work, and lay Cantonese evangelical participation in both strands while being critical of First Nations poverty. This paper contributes to both Asian North American and indigenous religious studies by pointing to the complex potentials for unexpected collaborative avenues in the struggle against white settler ideologies.

I’m also excited for several of the other sessions that ANARCS is sponsoring, including a very promising ‘quad-sponsored’ session titled ‘Placing the Subfield’ that will discuss the ‘Americas’ in the North American religions.

If you are in Baltimore and want to meet up, I’d be very happy to do so. I’m looking forward to a very productive AAR and to learning a lot from my friends and colleagues.

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Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Boston, 8-10 November 2013

I am here at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston, MA, at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR), which is being jointly held with the Religious Research Association (RRA), from 8-10 November 2013.

I organized a session for Saturday, 9 November.  It’s a paper session titled Faith, Class, and Space: Geographies of Religion, session G-10 on the SSSR program. It will be held from 2-3:30 PM in the Carlton Room, and it will feature geographers who work on religion, including Banu Gökariksel (Geography, University of North Carolina), Anna Secor (Geography, University of Kentucky), and Betsy Olson (Geography, University of North Carolina). Ann Taves (Religious Studies, UC Santa Barbara) is our discussant; this is more than appropriate because Taves was our Annual Lecturer for the Geography of Religions and Belief Systems Specialty Group (GORABS) at the Association of American Geographers’ (AAG) Annual Meeting earlier this April 2013. If you are here in Boston, you are warmly invited to attend.

The genesis of our paper session came from a conversation that I had with Lily Kong at the AAG earlier this year. Following Kong’s 2010 paper in Progress in Human Geography (which was incidentally her inaugural Annual Lecture for GORABS in 2010), we discussed the various conferences that geographers needed to attend and in which they needed to intervene in order to spread the word that geographers are interested in religion as an analytic. Having heard from Ann Taves and James Wellman (Religion, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington) that the SSSR was a conference that we must attend, I decided to organize a panel with some of the latest work in geographies of religion. Kong herself was unfortunately unable to attend. However, we really did get the cream of the crop in our discipline. Gökariksel and Secor have made fascinating interventions in the intersection of religion and consumption in their study of tesettür, Turkish veiling fashion that is seen as morally and aesthetically ambivalent and yet political in regard to secular states. Olson is presenting work that she conducted with a team of social geographers in the United Kingdom interested in the intersection of religion, childhood and youth studies, and postsecularism; her collaborators include Peter Hopkins (Geography, Newcastle University), Giselle Vincett (Geography, University of Edinburgh), and Rachel Pain (Geography, Durham University). Their collective project focuses on the young Christians in Scotland and factors in class to differentiate different kinds of youth in their sample. These two projects are some of the latest work being published in geographies of religion and represent an exciting turn in the discipline where religion is demonstrably a geographical analytic that, when it intersects with other social factors, presents a powerful entryway into theorizing how the contemporary world is constructed.

My paper is titled ‘We were very orderly and peaceful’: model minority evangelicals in public space. This paper is drawn from my PhD research, but because I want to focus on just one case study, it will explore how Cantonese evangelicals in the San Francisco Bay Area participated in activism around Proposition 8. At a theoretical level, this paper also seeks (like the other papers) to intervene in the social scientific study of religion by arguing that geographers become part of this conversation by focusing on how places are constituted, constructed, and contested. Here is the abstract:

Images of Chinese evangelical demonstrations against sexual liberalization in San Francisco, Vancouver, and Hong Kong have circulated throughout a global debate about sexual minorities and marriage equality.  While anti-marriage equality demonstrators have often been portrayed as motivated by private religious convictions and homophobic sentiments, little has been done to theorize their intersections of race, ethnicity, and class.  This paper focuses on one such group: Cantonese-speaking evangelicals in the Pacific Rim.  Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2011 and 2012 that involved 140 interviews and 13 focus groups, I argue that Cantonese evangelical protests against sexual liberalization often invoke a middle-class ‘model minority’ conception of participation in public space as an orderly activity over against lower-class forms of anarchy.  While notions of the ‘model minority’ have been anathema in Asian American studies, that Cantonese evangelicals actively invoke their peaceful, legal, non-violent, and non-anarchic approach to public space as a frame for their political activities suggests that fissures along class among migrant religious populations.  These analyses must in turn be grounded in space, demonstrating that class differences as to how public spaces are used are illustrative of larger conversations about religion, ethnicity, and class in the public sphere.

So far, it’s been a very good and interesting conference. There is a lot of interesting talk about the social sciences and interdisciplinarity. I also attended a very interesting ‘Author Meets the Critics’ session for Julie Park’s new book, When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher EducationIn addition to our disciplinary intervention with human geography here at the SSSR, I am enjoying meeting and reconnecting with people who are also interested in the social scientific study of Asian American religions. All that is to say, I am very glad that I am here, and I look forward to continuing to be productive while I am here.