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Religion Forum: Monuments to Disaster

Lectures: Dr. Brett J. Esaki (Georgia State): 'Monuments to Disaster: Religious Transformation in Japanese American Monuments'

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Monuments to Disaster: Religious Transformation in Japanese American Monuments

Dr. Brett J. Esaki
Georgia State University

Tuesday, Feb. 13
12:15-1:00 pm Bryant Gallery

Japanese Americans have created monuments, big and small, to honor their survival of World War II disasters. Japanese Americans were imprisoned in the World War II Internment Camps, initiated by Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 (just over 76 years ago). To illustrate the turmoil of the era, Robert Murase created a monument that has the audience literally walk through Japanese American history, transforming them through the power of Zen gardens and Native American natural symbols. Parallel to this, Japanese people in Japan survived the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and Japanese American Isamu Noguchi was commissioned to create a monument for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. He designed a monument in the shape of an indigenous Japanese burial mound that would transform the victims—and thereby the audience—by reconnecting them to the ancient spirit of Japan. Dr. Esaki will discuss the religious transformation in these monuments and introduce questions to consider regarding monuments in politically fraught environments. (Photo courtesy of Murase Associates)

Dr. Brett J. Esaki is an Assistant Professor in the Religious Studies Department at Georgia State University. His book, Enfolding Silence (Oxford 2016) examines the spiritual and political role of silence in Japanese American art, including gardening, origami, jazz, and monuments. He holds a doctorate from the University of California, Santa Barbara in American religions and a master’s from the University of South Carolina in Antebellum African American religions.

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