Faith, Solidarity and Compromises: Christian Life in the WWII Japanese American Incarceration Camps
Anne Blankenship (North Dakota State University) explores the lived religious experience of Nikkei Christian pastors struggling to build sustainable lives behind the barbed wire of America’s wartime incarceration camps.
12:00 PM to 2:00 PM
University Park Campus
Doheny Memorial Library
East Asian Seminar Room 110C
“Faith, Solidarity & Compromises: Christian Life in the WWII Japanese American Incarceration Camps” will explore the lived religious experience of Nikkei Christian pastors and adherents struggling to build sustainable lives behind the barbed wire of America’s wartime incarceration camps. Pastors attempted to sustain morale, construct sacred space in smelly mess halls or cluttered recreation halls, counsel draft resisters and families mourning the loss of their sons and cooperate with fellow clergy.
While ostensibly granted free religious liberty in the camps, Buddhists and Protestants were instructed to form ecumenical churches, meaning that neither religious group would be divided by sect or denomination for worship services.
While some Nikkei lost faith in a god who would allow such injustice, most Christians found their faith grow as religion provided solace and strength in difficult times. Other Christians benefited from the solidarity formed within Christian social groups.
In addition to showing how Christian beliefs and practices assisted incarcerees, this talk will explore the pressures Christian leaders placed on church members and the danger some faced when fellow incarcerees threatened their lives for collaborating with government officials.
An Assistant Professor in North Dakota State University’s History, Philosophy & Religious Studies Department, Anne Blankenship received her doctoral degree in Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
She also earned a masters degree at Yale Divinity School and completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research investigates religious responses to injustice and relationships between national, racial and religious identities.
Anne’s first book, Christianity, Social Justice, and the Japanese American Incarceration during World War II, reveals how the injustice transformed Asian American Christianity and challenged religious and racial boundaries in liberal American Christianity. It will be published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2016.
Her article in the journal Material Religion analyzed how Japanese American incarcerees used Christmas celebrations to express both patriotism and dissent during the war. Anne is currently working on a book project exploring religion and immigration, beginning with the settlement house movement and ending with current activism for immigration reform.