Religious Intolerance as a Driver of Economic and Political Exclusion

June, 2016

Sayuri Guthie Shimizu

Professor, Department of History

With generous financial support by the Boniuk Institute, I was able to conduct archival and bibliographical research in five locations in Japan over a two-month period (May-June 2017). For my month long stay in western Japan in May, I also received support from Osaka University in the form of free accommodation at its visiting scholar guesthouse on Toyonaka Campus. In exchange for this privilege I made a total of four guest class appearances and gave one public lecture for Osaka University. The Boniuk Institute also granted me an extension on my grant beyond May 31, 2017, to accommodate my personal contingencies including the need to assist my 83-year-old mother residing in Tokyo with her house demolition, move to her temporary housing and unexpected hospitalization along the way. I am grateful to the Institute for its understanding and support.

In the early part of May I was based in Osaka where I consulted oral history interview records, immigrant hometown associations newsletters and other historical publications housed at Osaka University, Ritsumeikan University and Kyoto University. I also conducted preliminary research at immigration history collections in this early part of my stay in Hiroshima and Okayama, two of the key immigrant-sending (to North America and Mexico) prefectures in western Japan. Based on this fieldwork I extended my search for relevant historical records to other immigrant-sending areas in western Japan such as Yamaguchi and Wakayama, those areas that sent large numbers of fishermen to North America. I moved my base of operation to Tokyo in late May. After about a ten-day interruption to deal with the familial obligations, I resumed archival research at the Foreign Ministry Archives (for consular records relative to Japanese immigrant communities in North America), the National Diet Library and the Waseda University Library Special Collections.

Among the preliminary findings arising from my fieldwork in Japan is that during the historical period and the geographical confines of my study, Christianity could be associated with Whiteness without the risk of oversimplification. There were very few Asian American Christians in the Pacific Northwest at the time, and White American working class that viewed Japanese Americans with hostility were of predominantly Protestant denomination and Catholics (Irish working-class). Other “Euro” American fishermen who also perceived Japanese and Japanese Americans as a threat, such as Portuguese and Southern Mediterranean ethnics were also of Catholics and Orthodox Churches. They used their political opposition to “heathen” and non-Christian Japanese religious practices as evidence of their own “Whiteness” and political legitimacy within the American Nation.

During my extended stay in Japan, I gave four oral presentations to both lay and scholarly audiences based on the body of research being funded by the Institute. They were a public lecture on the religiously-inspired vigilantism against Japanese immigrants in the Pacific Northwest given for an international seminar at Osaka University on May 20, a scholarly presentation (on religion as a cause of the anti-Japanese agitation in the US West) at the Annual Meeting of the Japanese Association for American Studies on June 4, a public lecture at Rikkyo University on June 9 and a guest class lecture at Kyoritsu Women’s University on June 21.

I plan to incorporate my summer research findings into a chapter I’m contributing to an edited volume entitled The Japanese Pacific, under contract with the University of Hawaii Press. This body of research will also inform my on-going book project on the history of capitalist resource cultivation in the transpacific world in the early twentieth century.