Congratulations to Julia Clark Camahort, the recipient of the 2022-23 Best Undergraduate Paper in Buddhist Studies!
"Resilience and Assimilation: Buddhism in Japanese-American Internment Camps"
This paper explores the experiences of Japanese-American Buddhists during World War II and their efforts to preserve and evolve their spiritual communities amidst immense adversity. Following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans faced forced relocation and incarceration in internment camps across the United States. In this hostile climate, Buddhism became synonymous with the perceived threat posed by Japanese Americans, leading to discrimination and violence against the Buddhist community. Part I of the paper examines the pressure to assimilate Buddhism into Christian American culture and the strategies employed by Japanese-American Buddhists to appear less dangerous, including altering traditions, adopting Christian practices, or, in some cases, converting to Christianity entirely. Part II focuses on Buddhism as a mode of resistance and community-building within the internment camps. The maintenance of Buddhist gardens and shared ceremonies provided a sense of identity and solidarity for incarcerated Japanese Americans. Additionally, Buddhism facilitated collaboration across different sects and faiths, contributing to the fusion of sectarian Buddhist practices. Ultimately, the survival and evolution of Buddhism within the context of Japanese-American incarceration was a testament to the enduring import of Buddhist teachings as well as the resilience and courage of Japanese-American practitioners.