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

Tue, February 26, 2019, 12:00 am to 2:00 am

180 Doe Library, UC Berkeley

Duncan Williams, USC | Speaker

Mark Blum, UCB | Discussant

Carolyn Chen, UCB Ethnic Studies | Discussant

Monday, February 25 | 4:00 – 6:00PM

180 Doe Library, UC Berkeley Campus


Duncan Ryūken Williams (University of Southern California) 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.


This event is co-sponsored by the Asian American & Asian Diaspora Studies Program