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.