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Asian American Religions and US law

This course examines the relationship between American law and Asian American religions from historical developments to contemporary debates. We will explore the exclusion and inclusion of Asian American religious traditions and persons through state and federal cases. Using several methodological and disciplinary approaches, including history, sociology, anthropology, law, and religious studies, students will learn how state governance delimits Asian American religious liberty and how Asian Americans and religious groups advocate for equal rights. Topics include Orientalism, racialization, various religious traditions, constitutional law, establishment and free exercise cases, religion in schools and prisons, zoning and noise ordinances, public proselytizing, taxes and financing new religions, brainwashing, and government surveillance. Classes will mix lectures on background material and key concepts with student-led and open-ended discussion. 

We will explore several theories of religion, race, and law before then applying these tools to analyze case studies of Asian American religions and individuals in legal disputes. After first investigating historical cases, most of this class is dedicated to post-1965 cases and issues. Guiding questions include: What counts as religious in America? Who decides this and on what bases? How have Asian Americans and their religious practices been categorized in American law, and how have Asian American religious groups/persons articulated themselves and their practices? How has the relationship between American law and Asian American religions changed over time? How do categories of religion, race, and nationhood intersect? 

There is no textbook assigned for this course. This is an emerging field and no single book yet addresses these themes. Therefore, assigned texts include a variety of journal articles, book chapters, and legal cases. To save you money—because a course reader would be very expensive and many of these works are available online—I have posted all readings on Gauchospace. You can print them or bring them with you to class on your laptop. I encourage you to download a version of Adobe Acrobat that lets you highlight text, make notes in margins, and annotate PDF files. Additionally, since this is an upper-division course rather than a lower-level course, there is more reading assigned. Also, many of the assigned texts contain heavy footnotes/endnotes; they are scholarly devices for citing sources, adding information, and arguing with other scholars. You may find the footnotes/endnotes interesting and helpful if you choose to read them, but they are not required; the lengths of these texts and the time it will take to read them are much shorter than at first appears, especially if you skip the footnotes. 

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