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Brett Esaki

Assistant Professor    

Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2012
M.A., University of South Carolina, 2006


Religions of American Minorities, Art, Spirituality, Poststructuralism


Dr. Esaki researches how American minorities creatively use religion and art to preserve, to reinvent, and to discover a sense of their full humanity. He specializes in intersections of Asian Americans and African Americans in areas of spirituality, popular culture, and comprehensive sustainability. He focuses on methods to examine religion on the ground, especially ethnography, cultural studies, and subjugated history. The research focus and methods lead to an expansive set of theoretical explorations, including performance studies, psychoanalysis, philosophy of race, ideology, and alternate intelligences.

His book, Enfolding Silence: The Transformation of Japanese American Religion and Art under Oppression (Oxford 2016), explores the history of Japanese Americans preserving and hybridizing their religious traditions through art. Japanese Americans found that silence is a nexus that avoids social oppression, is marginally accepted in art circles, and houses religious resources.

He is currently researching the intersection of spirituality and comprehensive sustainability among Asian Americans, and his book-length project on this intersection is tentatively titled Asian American Radical Spirituality. Asian Americans have the highest rate of any racial group of “religious nones” and practicing spirituality has led to their engagement in sustainability and practicing sustainability has led to their adoption of spirituality. Chapters examine the power of “flow” for Asian Americans in hip hop, the role of transformative spirit for matriarchical socialist Fred Ho, the search for wholeness by Asian American women in academia, and the spiritual vision of sustainability by activist Grace Lee Boggs.

Home Department: Religious Studies