Spring 2015 | The Public Practice of Immigrant and Minority Religions in Southern California

This seminar would focus on expressions of religious hybridity and the politics of cultural appropriation. In particular, it would examine the way that diverse minority and immigrant communities in the multi-ethnic urban context of Southern California inhabit, claim and contest sacred and cultural spaces. How do these communities inhabit multiple spaces of religious engagement and how do their engagements interface with various heritages and countries of origin so that the communities occupy simultaneously transnational and diasporic contexts? What are the controversies surrounding Shar’ia law among Muslims in the United States, for example? How are Hindu American communities fighting to “Take Back Yoga”? What is to be discovered in the pilgrimages of Mexican Catholic saints across hotly contested borders?

This seminar would begin with the presumption that its subjects inhabit multiple cultural and religious contexts and that the recognition of this multiplicity is absolutely paramount to the study of religion and culture in our modern age of globalization (Appadurai 1996; Gupta and Ferguson 1997). More specifically, the seminar would focus on the public spaces of discourse such as religious festivals to consider how they not only define religio-cultural communities for outside observers, but provide for critical spaces within which immigrant communities visibly define themselves against the multicultural slate of the nation. As such, these expressions provide substantive moments in which the center is re-defined by the periphery. That is to say: how individuals respond, react, and discuss these public encounters reveals much about the qualities of post-9/11 multiculturalism in the United States today.

Faculty Participants

Ashon Crawley, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies

Professor Crawley is working on his first book project: “That I may be used as an instrument in his hand”: Historicity, Performance and the Aesthetics of BlackPentecostalism,” a study of the aesthetic practices found in BlackPentecostalism, a multiracial, multi-class, multi-national Christian sect that arguably began in 1906 in Los Angeles.

HughesJennifer Scheper Hughes, Associate Professor of History

Professor Hughes’s research and teaching focuses on Latin American and Latino religions, religion and art (including especially religious images), the role of religion in colonialism and decolonization, Christianity in the Southern Hemisphere, and immigrant religions. Professor Hughes’s first book is Biography of a Mexican Crucifix: Lived Religion and Local Faith from the Conquest to the Present (2010.) She is currently working on a book about Latino religious practice in the metro Los Angeles/Southern California area

Matthew-King-219x300Matt King, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Matthew King’s research focuses on histories of Géluk scholasticism, with special attention paid to knowledge practice and writing as a response to modernization across the Qing-socialist transition in Inner Asia. He is currently completing a book manuscript on Buddhism during Mongolia’s socialist revolution through the life and works of Zawa Damdin Luwsandamdin (1867-1937).

lucia.ucr_-164x247Amanda Lucia, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Amanda J. Lucia (PhD, University of Chicago, 2010) is an Associate Professor in the Religious Studies Department at the University of California, Riverside. Her research engages American religions and Hinduism by focusing on religio-cultural encounters between the United States and South Asia since the early-19th century. Her first book, Reflections of Amma: Devotees in a Global Embrace (University of California Press, 2014) is an ethnography focusing on devotees and their transnational negotiations in one contemporary guru movement. Lucia’s current book project, American Yogis: Play, Representation, and Authenticity is a study of postural yoga through yoga festivals in the United States. Her articles and reviews are published widely and she is active at UCR as a Co-director of the Institute for the Study of Immigration and Religion.

Graduate Students

David Chavez, History

nia Crasnow, Religious Studies

Sonia’s research is situated at the intersection of Religious Studies and Queer Studies, and focuses specifically on LGBTQ Jews. This research uses ethnographic data to explore issues of gender, sexuality, religion and spirituality, especially as expressed in the “lived religion” of LGBTQ Jews.

Shou Jen Kuo picShou Jen Kuo, Religious Studies

Shou’s research area encompasses immigrant religions in Los Angeles, Chinese religion/Buddhism, and American religious spatiality. The Los Angeles region provides an excellent ethnographic field for him to study the religio-cultural practices of distinctive Asian religions in the context of American multiculturalism. He is particularly interested in the spatial embodiment and ritual performance of Chinese religiosity within the immigrant communities in the United States. His secondary research interest focuses on the methodological development in current Chinese religious studies scholarship, especially in its subarea of Buddhist studies.

Daisy Vargas, History

Undergraduate Students

Adan Escobedo, Art History & Religious Studies


Gabriela Perez
, Religious Studies

Gabby Perez is a third year undergraduate student majoring in religious studies. Her interests include religion in America, religion and culture, liberation theology, and US Hispanic/Latino theology. Gabby plans to attend graduate school and continue the academic study of religion.

Affaf Waseem, Religious Studies