Religion at the Corner of Bliss and Nirvana

Politics, Identity, and Faith in New Migrant Communities

Religion at the Corner of Bliss and Nirvana

Book Pages: 400 Illustrations: 21 photographs, 6 figures Published: September 2009

American Studies, Religious Studies, Sociology

Based on ethnographic research by an interdisciplinary team of scholars and activists, Religion at the Corner of Bliss and Nirvana illuminates the role that religion plays in the civic and political experiences of new migrants in the United States. By bringing innovative questions and theoretical frameworks to bear on the experiences of Chinese, Filipino, Mexican, Salvadoran, and Vietnamese migrants, the contributors demonstrate how groups and individuals negotiate multiple religious, cultural, and national identities, and how religious faiths are transformed through migration. Taken together, their essays show that migrants’ religious lives are much more than replications of home in a new land. They reflect a process of adaptation to new physical and cultural environments, and an ongoing synthesis of cultural elements from the migrants’ countries of origin and the United States.

As they conducted research, the contributors not only visited churches and temples but also single-room-occupancy hotels, brothels, tattoo-removal clinics, and the streets of San Francisco, El Salvador, Mexico, and Vietnam. Their essays include an exploration of how faith-based organizations can help LGBT migrants surmount legal and social complexities, an examination of transgendered sex workers’ relationship with the unofficial saint Santisima Muerte, a comparison of how a Presbyterian mission and a Buddhist temple in San Francisco help Chinese immigrants to acculturate, and an analysis of the transformation of baptismal rites performed by Mayan migrants. The voices of gang members, Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhist nuns, members of Pentecostal churches, and many others animate this collection. In the process of giving voice to these communities, the contributors interrogate theories about acculturation, class, political and social capital, gender and sexuality, the sociology of religion, transnationalism, and globalization. The collection includes twenty-one photographs by Jerry Berndt.

Contributors. Luis Enrique Bazan, Kevin M. Chun, Hien Duc Do, Patricia Fortuny Loret de Mola, Joaquin Jay Gonzalez III, Sarah Horton, Cymene Howe, Mimi Khúc, Jonathan H. X. Lee, Lois Ann Lorentzen, Andrea Maison, Dennis Marzan, Rosalina Mira, Claudine del Rosario, Susanna Zaraysky


“[T]his is a welcome addition to the literature on religion and new immigrants, a field that most social scientists have ignored.” — Harvey J. Strum, Multicultural Review

“For scholars interested in the intersection of religion and migration, this book provides insights and data unique in the field. It would also be useful reading in graduate seminars in both the sociology of religion and international migration. I also recommend the book as an example of creative and interesting use of ethnographic data.” — Helen Rose Ebaugh, Contemporary Sociology

“This book is a valuable and recommended addition to the increasing body of literature on religion and immigrant communities.”
— Ann Gleig, Religious Studies Review

”In spite of its tremendous and ambitious goal, Religion at the Corner of Bliss and Nirvana is not difficult to follow its daunting 372 pages. The writers did a fantastic job by reflecting on the different religious practices of the wide variety of immigrants in San Francisco. I was pleasantly surprised that such a difficult and complex theme kept me absorbed at all times.” — Anna Hamling, Feminist Review blog

Religion at the Corner of Bliss and Nirvana is a welcome new compilation of research on migrants and religion. It not only addresses subjects such as identity and politics, but also gives voice to groups and institutions not often considered by religious studies, such as transnational gangs, Filipino American faith-based organizations, and adherents of the Chinese goddess Tianhou. By considering these together, this anthology offers new perspectives on the intersections of faith and immigration.” — Russell Jeung, author of Faithful Generations: Race and New Asian American Churches

Religion at the Corner of Bliss and Nirvana offers a cornucopia of fresh insights into the multiple roles religion plays for immigrant communities, as they negotiate the challenges of settlement in the always iconoclastic city of San Francisco. It includes groundbreaking comparisons among various Asian and Latino groups, ranging from Salvadoran Pentecostals, Vietnamese Theravada Buddhists, Filipino Roman Catholics, and Chinese-American Presbyterians. The volume also stands out for its innovative and perceptive exploration of the connections among transnationalism, spiritual journeys, gender crossings, and acculturation.” — Manuel A. Vásquez, University of Florida, Gainesville


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lois Ann Lorentzen is Chair of Theology and Religious Studies and Director of the Center for Latino Studies in the Americas at the University of San Francisco.

Joaquin Jay Gonzalez III is Associate Professor of Politics and Director of the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program at the University of San Francisco.

Kevin M. Chun is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of San Francisco.

Hien Duc Do is Professor of Social Sciences and Asian American Studies and Coordinator of the Asian American Studies Program at San Jose State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: Advancing Theory and Method / Lois Ann Lorentzen, Kevin M. Chun, Joaquin Jay Gonzalez III, and Hien Duc Do vii

Acknowledgments xxvii

Part 1. Gender and Sexualities

Devotional Crossings: Transgender Sex Workers, Santisima Muerte, and Spiritual Solidarity in Guadalajara and San Francisco / Cymene Howe, Susanna Zaraysky, and Lois Ann Lorentzen 3

Sexual Borderlands: Lesbian and Gay Migration, Human Rights, and the Metropolitan Community Church / Cymene Howe 39

El Milagro Está en Casa: Gender and Private and Public Empowerment in a Migrant Pentecostal Church / Lois Ann Lorentzen with Rosalina Mira 69

Part 2. Acculturation

Religious Organizations in San Francisco Chinatown: Sites of Acculturation for Chinese Immigrant Youth / Kevin M. Chun 89

Immigrant Religious Adaptation: Vietnamese American Buddhists as Chua Viet Name (Vietnamese Buddhist Temple) / Hien Duc Do and Mimi Khúc 124

Part 3. Transnationalism

Americanizing Philippine Churches and Filipinizing American Congregations / Joaquin Jay Gonzalez III 141

Creating a Transnational Religious Community: The Empress of Heaven and Goddess of the Sea, Tianhou/Mazu, from Beigang to San Francisco / Jonathan H. X. Lee 166

Ahora la luz: Transnational Gangs, the State, and Religion / Lois Ann Lorentzen with Luis Enrique Bazan 184

Transnational Hetzmek: From Oxkutzcab to San Francisco / Patricia Fortuny Loret de Mola 207

The Latino "Springtime" of the Catholic Church: Lay Religious Networks and Transnationalism from Below / Sarah Horton 243

Part 4. Civic and Political Engagment

We Do Not Bowl Alone: Cultural and Social Capital from Filipino Faiths / Joaquin Jay Gonzalez III, Andrea Maison, and Dennis Marzan 265

Counterhegemony Finds Place in a Hegemon: Activism through Filipino-American Churches / Joaquin Jay Gonzalez III and Claudine del Rosario 285

Appendix A: Research Questions 311

Appendix B: Family Member Questionnaire 316

References 325

Contributors 355

Index 359

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4547-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4528-2
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