Immigrants to the Pure Land: The Modernization, Acculturation, and Globalization of Shin Buddhism, 1898-1941
Pure Land Buddhist Studies
Published by: University of Hawaii Press
Imprint: University of Hawaii Press
Sales Date: 2023-03-31
Published: March 2023
Imprint: University of Hawaii Press
Series: Pure Land Buddhist Studies
Page Count: 328 Pages
Illustrations: 16 b&w illus.
Dimensions: 152.00 x 228.00
328 Pages, 152.00 x 228.00 x 0.90 in, 16 b&w illus.
In StockAdd to Wishlist
Religious acculturation is typically seen as a one-way process: The dominant religious culture imposes certain behavioral patterns, ethical standards, social values, and organizational and legal requirements onto the immigrant religious tradition. In this view, American society is the active partner in the relationship, while the newly introduced tradition is the passive recipient being changed. Michihiro Ama’s investigation of the early period of Jodo Shinshu in Hawai‘i and the United States sets a new standard for investigating the processes of religious acculturation and a radically new way of thinking about these processes.
Most studies of American religious history are conceptually grounded in a European perspectival position, regarding the U.S. as a continuation of trends and historical events that begin in Europe. Only recently have scholars begun to shift their perspectival locus to Asia. Ama’s use of materials spans the Pacific as he draws on never-before-studied archival works in Japan as well as the U.S. More important, Ama locates immigrant Jodo Shinshu at the interface of two expansionist nations. At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, both Japan and the U.S. were extending their realms of influence into the Pacific, where they came into contact—and eventually conflict—with one another. Jodo Shinshu in Hawai‘i and California was altered in relation to a changing Japan just as it was responding to changes in the U.S. Because Jodo Shinshu’s institutional history in the U.S. and the Pacific occurs at a contested interface, Ama defines its acculturation as a dual process of both "Japanization" and "Americanization."
Immigrants to the Pure Land explores in detail the activities of individual Shin Buddhist ministers responsible for making specific decisions regarding the practice of Jodo Shinshu in local sanghas. By focusing so closely, Ama reveals the contestation of immigrant communities faced with discrimination and exploitation in their new homes and with changing messages from Japan. The strategies employed, whether accommodation to the dominant religious culture or assertion of identity, uncover the history of an American church in the making.
[Michihiro Ama] demonstrates that supposedly well-known stories can be refreshed through new approaches, and that there is indeed much that has been left unexamined in the early American Buddhist past. . . . The most important lesson to take away from Immigrants to the Pure Land is that acculturation is a complex process with many different factors. It is not simply the transplantation of one culture or religion to a new area, nor are immigrants and their descendants affected only by the encounter with the new national host culture. As Ama argues persuasively, acculturation involves local, regional, national, and global levels and influences all at the same time. Jeff Wilson, The Eastern Buddhist, 42:2 (2011)
Ama situates the immigrant Jōdo Shinshū communities, particularly in Hawai‘i and California, within the context of Japanese and American expansionism in the Pacific and the resulting eventual conflict between Japan and the United States. . . . By focusing on local immigrant Jōdo Shinshū communities, the author reveals the difficulties Japanese communities experienced through discrimination, racism, and exploitation in the United States and political and military conditions in Japan. This book is a “must read” for specialists in Buddhist Studies and undergraduate and graduate students interested in these fields. Paul O. Ingram, Pacific Lutheran University (Emeritus), Religious Studies Review, 38:4 (December 2012)
Ama diverts from long held assumptions about Shin Buddhism’s development in North America that argued for the centrality of ethnic solidarity or that contemporary structures and practices are evidence of cultural and institutional assimilation to the host society. Arguing against the one-way process of assimilation that assumes Shin Buddhism’s development as a response to and emulation of Christianity in the West, Ama develops a cultural-historical narrative that is multi-site and multi-directional and that does not privilege Christianity. Instead, he defines Shin Buddhist acculturation as “a blending process consisting of the ‘Japanization’ and ‘Americanization’ of Jōdo Shinshū. Jonathan H. X. Lee, University of San Francisco, Pacific World, Third Series, No. 16 (2014)
Using untapped primary materials preserved at the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) headquarters, Ama presents an exhaustive, nuanced examination of the multifaceted transplantation of the Honganjis into the American continent. . . . Ama’s advancement of a transnational perspective is an important contribution to the study of American religions as well as to the study of modern East Asian Buddhism. The case of Shin Buddhism’s acculturation in North America demonstrates more similarities to Shin Buddhism’s developments in modern East Asia in general, and in colonial Korea in particular, than it does differences. Hwansoo Kim, Duke University, Pacific Affairs, 85:2 (June 2012)