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Religiosity In Asian America


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Russell Jeung's presentation on 3/6/08; audio and comments at

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Religiosity In Asian America

  1. 1. Religiosity in Asian America: Spiritual Vitality, Secularism and Racialization © Russell Jeung, Ph.D. San Francisco State University Do not use or reprint without permission of author [email_address]
  2. 2. Introduction: Kuan Kong v. Confucius <ul><li>Kuan Kong in Romance of Three Kingdoms Video game </li></ul><ul><li>Confucianism as an explanation for Chinese cultural identity and behaviors </li></ul><ul><li>What are the religious affiliation and practices of the Asian American community? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Religious Affiliation of Asian Americans Source: Pew Forum U.S. Religious Affiliation Survey, 2007 (N=~700) Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey 2000 ages 21-45 (N=460) National Study of Religion and Youth, 2003-4 (N=45)
  4. 4. Changes in Asian American Religious Affiliation (1990-2007) Sources: Pew Forum U.S. Religious Affiliation Survey, 2007 (N=~700) Pilot Asian American Political Survey 2000-01 (N=1,218) National Survey of Religious Identification 1990 (N=460)
  5. 5. Spiritual Vitality: Immigration as a Theologizing Experience <ul><li>Filipinos (94%) and Koreans (87%) are highly religious. </li></ul><ul><li>Koreans (87%) and Filipinos (71%) have higher church attendance rates than others. </li></ul><ul><li>Asian Americans professing “Asian” religions have almost tripled since 1990. </li></ul><ul><li>Asian Americans make up 88% of the Hindus, 32% of the Buddhists, and 20% of Muslims in the US. </li></ul><ul><li>Even among 21-45 year old Asian Americans, 46% attend services weekly compared to 36% of US total population </li></ul>Nand Shiv Durga Mandir Montebello, CA
  6. 6. 2 nd Generation Asian American Religion and Ethnic Identity* <ul><li>The Model Model Minority </li></ul><ul><li>Religion as a primordial source of identity—home faith as real Indian-ness </li></ul><ul><li>Ethno-religious communities as a third space for extended family </li></ul><ul><li>Ethno-religious communities as preservers and transmitters of culture </li></ul><ul><li>Desire for authentic, other-worldly spirituality </li></ul>* See Khyati Joshi, New Roots in America’s Sacred Ground, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006
  7. 7. Religiously Unaffiliated Asian Americans <ul><li>Chinese (39%) and Japanese (26%) affiliate with religious groups much less than other ethnicities </li></ul><ul><li>23% of Asian Americans overall are unaffiliated with a religion </li></ul><ul><li>Asian Americans (11%) are almost twice as secular as other Americans (6%) </li></ul>5 6 Religious unaffiliated 11 6 Secular 4 2 Agnostic 3 2 Atheist 23% of Asian American Pop. 16% of Total Pop. Unaffiliated
  8. 8. Sources of Non-Affiliation <ul><li>Selective immigration: 44% of Asian Americans are college graduates </li></ul><ul><li>Nature of Asian American religiosity: inclusive, spiritual practices (v. exclusive, theological tenets) </li></ul><ul><li>Continuing significance of Asian ethical and moral systems </li></ul>Los Angeles Chinatown Temple, 1938
  9. 9. Racialization of Asian American Religions <ul><li>Religious Racialization of South Asians </li></ul><ul><li>Brown = Muslim </li></ul><ul><li>Coded Zoning Opposition to Asian temples </li></ul>
  10. 10. Racialized Panethnicity: Asian American Mainline Christians <ul><li>Historical Discrimination </li></ul><ul><li>“ Where are you from?”--Contemporary Stereotypes </li></ul><ul><li>Ethnic Reinvention </li></ul>Jesus and the Kingdom of God: Peace and Justice Asian Americans as a Oppressed Minority Group
  11. 11. Racialized Panethnicity: Asian American Evangelicals <ul><li>Targeting Spiritual Markets </li></ul><ul><li>“ Why didn’t you get an A+?!?”— 1.5/2nd Generation Family Dynamics </li></ul><ul><li>Lifestyle Affinities </li></ul>Jesus as Personal Savior Asian Americans as People with Certain Family Dynamics
  12. 12. Racialized Multiculturalism: Racial Attitudes of Asian American Ministers
  13. 13. Racialized Multicultural Discourse <ul><li>Assumptions </li></ul><ul><li>US is a racialized society </li></ul><ul><li>US has a racial hierarchy, divided esp. between blacks and whites </li></ul><ul><li>Other minorities face different issues of racial discrimination, such as nativism or patriotic racism </li></ul><ul><li>Ethnicity matters </li></ul>
  14. 14. Religious Diversity and Community Volunteerism Among Asian Americans* * Elaine Howard Ecklund and Jerry Park, Religious Diversity and Community Volunteerism Among Asian Americans.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Volume 46, Number 2, June 2007, pp. 233-244 51 Total Sample 26 Buddhist 40 Hindu 45 Nonreligious 54 Catholic 65 Other Religion 69 Protestant Christian Percent participating in at least one nonreligious organization Religious Affiliation of Asian Americans
  15. 15. Political Ideology of Asian Americans by Religious Affiliation* * Pei-te Lien, “Religion and Political Adaptation among Asian Americans,” in Tony Carnes and Fenggang Yang, eds., Asian American Religions: The Making and Remaking of Borders and Boundaries, (New York: New York University Press, 2004) 10 13 4 8 14 7 7 Not Sure 4 3 8 -- 6 4 4 Very Conservative 18 15 17 14 12 24 25 Somewhat Conservative 32 35 12 17 41 24 33 Middle of the Road 28 22 50 43 21 32 27 Somewhat Liberal 8 10 8 18 6 8 4 Very Liberal All None Muslim Hindu Buddhist Catholic Protestant Christian
  16. 16. Conclusion <ul><li>Theorizing Categories of Religion: A Yin-Yang Approach of Fluidity, Hybridity and Racialization </li></ul><ul><li>Methodological Approaches to Religion: Orientalist fieldwork v. home-work (Religious Studies as Praxis) </li></ul><ul><li>Teaching Religion: Homes and Congregations as Problematized Classrooms </li></ul>