American Academy of Religion 2015 | Atlanta, GA

I was very happy to be given the opportunity to present two papers at the American Academy of Religion (AAR) from November 21-24, 2015. I also serve as a steering committee member for the Asian North American Religions, Culture, and Society group, so it is always good to see friends there as well. We were particularly proud to host a panel session on the new edited volume Asian American Christian Ethics, which my partner-in-crime in Asian American religious ethics Grace Kao (Claremont) had a hand in co-edited (along with ethicist Ilsup Ahn).

I’m also a steering committee member for the newly formed Chinese Christianities Seminar, and my peers – through no coercion of mine and with my abstained vote – generously allowed me to present some work on Chinese Anglicanism in Vancouver in the new session. Moderated by Jonathan Tan (Case Western Reserve University), my colleagues in the session included Christopher Sneller (King’s College London), Stephanie M. Wong (Georgetown), Mu-tien Chiou (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), and Di Kang. My paper, entitled ‘A Tale of Three Bishops: Chineseness and the Global City in Vancouver’s Anglican Realignment‘ has the following abstract:

This paper theorizes the ‘Chineseness’ of Anglicans in Vancouver engaging with the global Anglican realignment as ideological, especially through their competing visions of Vancouver as a global city, an urban economic center of political and cultural influence. Focusing on the split between Vancouver’s local bishop Michael Ingham and two Cantonese-speaking realignment bishops in Vancouver (Silas Ng and Stephen Leung), my central argument is that Anglicans on all sides of the realignment deployed their self-defined ideological constructs of Chineseness in a contest over how to theologize Vancouver as a global city. The three Vancouver episcopal visions under debate concerned whether Vancouver should be conceptualized as a site for interreligious pluralism, spiritual purification, or civil multicultural discourse. Based on key informant interviews in Vancouver, San Francisco, and Hong Kong, this contention advances the study of Chinese Christianity by suggesting that the cross-regional engagements of Chinese Christians may in fact motivated by civic concerns to globalize their own cities.

We were guided as a seminar by the very able Alexander Chow (Edinburgh), who is establishing himself as quite the authority on Chinese Christianities worldwide. I’m very thankful for his collegial support and am always pleased to hear his feedback on my work. I’m also very thankful to have met Ting Guo, a postdoctoral fellow at Purdue, at this seminar.

In addition, I was part of a quad session entitled ‘Enter the State: Revisiting the Making of Post-1965 Asian American Religion,’ with co-presenters Ren Ito (Emmanuel College, Toronto), Melissa Borja (CUNY Staten Island), Paul Chang (UC Riverside), and Philip Deslippe (UCSB); our respondent was Carolyn Chen (UC Berkeley), and the session was moderated by Isaac Weiner (Ohio State). My paper, entitled ‘Restructuring the Church: Cantonese Protestant organizations and economistic states,’ had the following abstract:

This paper examines the transformation of Chinese American evangelical congregations and faith-based organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area into corporate business models in the 1990s and 2000s. Based on ethnographic interviews with 47 key informants, the central argument is that these business models facilitated Chinese evangelical transactions with both the American and Chinese governments in the hope of shaping public policy on both sides of the Pacific. While these dreams of public engagement date back to the 1970s and 1980s, this paper also shows that the 1989 Tiananmen Beijing Spring’s aftermath intensified these efforts, leading to the restructuring of several key churches and parachurch organizations. These efforts demonstrate that fantasies of state ideologies as well as encounters with governments revamped the landscape of Chinese churches in the Bay Area, advancing the view that states are central to the formation of Asian American religious communities.

I am very excited about the comments that I received on thsi paper, especially the push from Carolyn Chen to think harder about the church in relation to neoliberal states.

I enjoyed my time in Atlanta. This was an AAR where I had some real intellectual engagements and came away feeling like a stronger scholar. I am thankful for those with whom I had conversations and am excited for next year’s iteration of this conference to see them again.

Society of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion: Rethinking Reparations to Chinese North Americans (with Grace Kao)

I’m very excited to be going to Denver to present new research that I’ve done with my friend and colleague, Grace Kao (Claremont School of Theology). We’re delivering a co-authored paper at the Society of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion at the Iliff School of Theology. The keynote speakers include James Evans, Orlando Espín, and Rita Nakashima Brock. Grace and I are sharing the stage on Friday afternoon with Jeffrey Robbins, Kristian Diaz, and Grace Ji-Sun Kim.

Our paper is titled Rethinking Reparations to Chinese North Americans: A Comparative Analysis Between the U.S. and Canadian Case. We’re comparing the (non)apologies that were given to Chinese Americans for the exclusion era by Congress in 2011 and 2012 to the Chinese head tax redress that culminated in the Harper government’s apology with reparations in 2006. We’ll be assessing these apologies in light of the United Nations-backed international standard for reparations as well as the comparative case of Japanese American and Japanese Canadian redress for World War II internment. We’ll also suggest some ways to repair the reparations in light of new redress efforts, especially for African Americans and Canada’s First Nations.

We’re very excited for this conference and the conversations that will unfold from this. At a personal and professional level, I’m thrilled to be working with Grace. Grace served as a discussant for a panel that I organized at the 2012 American Academy of Religion. Her critique of my paper was so incisive that over coffee with her afterward, I asked her to teach me the ways in Christian ethics. It’s really because of her that I know anything about the Niebuhrs, Ramsey, and Rawls, as well as where Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley Hauerwas fit on the map of Christian ethics. The brilliance of this project is that someone that I have long considered my teacher has become my peer. Bringing our projects together – mine on Cantonese Protestants in Vancouver and hers on the ethics of reparations to aggrieved communities – we’ve managed to write a paper that we both like, bridging geography and ethics. Of course, we talk quite a bit in geography about ethics, but to actually work with an ethicist – that’s the next level!

Needless to say, I’m very excited for what will come of this collaboration, and I am looking forward very much to this conference.

Head tax redress, 2006 (Source: CBC)

AAR 2013: Asian North American “Conservative” Christian Communities, Masculinities, and Gender Issues

I had the privilege of organizing a panel for the upcoming American Academy of Religion (AAR) meeting in Chicago, IL.  It is sponsored by the Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society (ANARCS) Group and will feature a very diverse panel of scholars speaking about masculinities and gender issues in “conservative” Asian American and Asian Canadian communities.  Here is our abstract:

This panel session explores the “conservatism” of certain Asian North American religious communities, particularly evangelical and fundamentalist Christian ones, around gender issues. By gender “conservatism,” we refer to attempts to reinforce heteronormative, patriarchal practices both within Asian North American religious communities and without in civil society.

Our panelists will discuss 1) the usage of evangelicalism by Korean American men to restore a sense of empowerment, 2) the appropriation of Asian American tropes of mixed-martial arts and “linsanity” (following the recent stardom of Jeremy Lin) by conservative evangelicals at large to reconstitute masculinities, 3) the experience of a trans-male in a Korean American Christian community in New York, 4) the activism of conservative Asian Americans in opposing LGBTQI rights in America, and 5) the exploration of conservative Asian North American religious groups in a Canadian context who oppose sexual equality despite its federal legal status. A feminist ethicist will respond.

The panel will be chaired by Michael Sepidoza Campos (GTU) and will be responded to by Grace Yia-Hei Kao (Claremont School of Theology).  The panelists themselves come from very diverse backgrounds and espouse fairly different academic approaches; they are: Mark Chung Hearn (Azusa Pacific University), Steve B. Hu (UC Santa Barbara), Sung Won Park (Union Theological Seminary), Patrick S. Cheng (Episcopal Divinity School), and myself.  Our aim in assembling this very diverse set of voices is to encourage conversation on a topic that has been seldom discussed in Asian North American religious studies, not to mention academic discussion more generally.

I will be speaking on the intersection of Asian Canadian studies and the need to contextualize the traditional sexuality activism of Cantonese Protestants in Vancouver, British Columbia, within their engagements with Canadian civil society.  My take on the panel is that these issues require a fair, accurate, and scholarly interpretation from the academy and are not served well by caricatures, particularly as stereotyping often leads to the very forms of socially unjust orientalizing racism that are increasingly unacceptable in our civil society.

The panel will take place Sunday, 18 November 2012, from 9 AM to 11:30 AM and all those registered for the AAR meeting are warmly invited to join in what promises to be an exciting conversation.

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On Monday, 19 November 2012, I will also be presiding over another ANARCS panel entitled “Boundary Crossings: New Directions in Asian American Theologies.”  This panel will feature Barbara Yuki Schwartz (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary), Simon Joseph Kierulf (Union Presbyterian Seminary), Yeon Yeon Hwang (Graduate Theological Union), and Ren Ito (University of Toronto), and the respondent will be Nami Kim (Spellman College).  The panel will be held from 1-3 PM, and it will be followed by the ANARCS Business Meeting.