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‘Bonded by reverence toward the Buddha’: Asian decolonization, Japanese Americans, and the making of the Buddhist world, 1947–1965*

  • Michael K. Masatsugu (a1)

This article examines Asian and Japanese American participation in a post-Second World War global movement for Buddhist revival. It looks at the role that Buddhism and the World Fellowship of Buddhists organization played in shaping transnational networks and the development of a global Buddhist perspective. It contextualizes the growth of a ‘Buddhist world’ within the history of decolonization and Japanese American struggles to reconstruct individual and community identities thoroughly disrupted by the war. The article considers Asian Buddhist approaches toward recognition as national and world citizens rather than colonial subjects and their influence on Japanese American Buddhists’ strategies for combating racial and religious discrimination in the United States. Finally, the article examines how Japanese Americans joined Asian efforts to formulate a distinctly Buddhist response to the Cold War. Buddhists hoped that Buddhism might serve as a ‘third power’ that would provide a critical check on a world increasingly polarized by Cold War politics and threatened by the prospects of nuclear war.

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The author thanks Rebecca M. Brown, Andrew Diemer, Nicole Dombrowski-Risser, Benjamin Fischer, Cindy Gissendanner, Elizabeth Gray, Christian Koot, Meghan Mettler, Karen Oslund, Steven Phillips, Ronn Pineo, Akim Reinhardt, Allaire Stallsmith, Jon Wiener, Duncan Williams, Ben Zajicek, and the Journal of Global History's editors and anonymous referees for their insightful comments and suggestions.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Sujit Sivasundaram , ‘Ethnicity, indigeneity, and migration in the advent of British rule in Sri Lanka’, American Historical Review, 115, 2, 2010, p. 434

Duncan Ryûken Williams and Tomoe Moriya , eds., Issei Buddhism in the Americas, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2010

Arif Dirlik , ‘Performing the world: reality and representation in the making of world histor(ies)’, Journal of World History, 16, 4, 2005, p. 407

Michael K. Masatsugu , ‘“Beyond this world of transiency and impermanence”: Japanese Americans, Dharma Bums, and the making of American Buddhism during the early Cold War years’, Pacific Historical Review, 77, 3, 2008, pp. 432435

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Journal of Global History
  • ISSN: 1740-0228
  • EISSN: 1740-0236
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-global-history
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