Lecturer, The Graduate School of International Peace Studies
Soka University, Japan
How did you initially get interested/involved in the field of religion and education?
My favorite class I took as an undergraduate student was called “Religion of America’s Ethnic Minorities.” As a religious and ethnic minority in the US, it resonated with me in a way most other classes did not. That led me to a Master’s degree in religion. Then, I worked in student affairs for a few years and got inspired to do a PhD in education. In that program, I realized that hardly anyone was talking about religion and religious diversity issues. So, I started talking, researching, and writing about those issues, and I haven’t stopped since!
What are you working on right now?
A few years ago, I started expanding my research on how Christian supremacy is embedded in higher education by moving beyond a U.S. focus to exploring this phenomenon globally. In particular, I have been looking at how internationalization efforts are implicated in spreading a Christio-normative worldview around the world. I now live and work in Japan, and through my research on internationalization in Japan’s higher education sector, I have been exposed to many examples of how the pressure for universities to internationalize can lead to both internalized Christian supremacy/normativity and to active resistance against the homogenizing forces of Western/Christian universalism. I haven’t published much on this yet, but I hope to in the next couple of years or so.
What is something that people might be surprised to know about you?
I was raised practicing Hinduism and speaking Hindi at home, but I have no Indian/South Asian ancestry. My father is ethnically Italian, but lived in India for 10 years and has been a practicing Hindu for most of his life. On the other hand, I was raised primarily around my Japanese Buddhist extended family (on my mother’s side), but I never learned to speak Japanese. I still can’t speak Japanese, even now that I live in Japan.
What are you reading (for research/teaching and pleasure) right now?
I’ve been reading a lot about the history and current movements related to Indigenous groups in Japan. This is both for research and personal interest. As an adult, I learned that I have Ainu heritage, and have since connected with a network of Ainu in diaspora, many of whom also learned about their Ainu heritage as adults. Learning more about Ainu history and why so many Ainu families chose to hide their identity has been meaningful for me personally, but has also given me a new perspective on how religion and spirituality have historically been targeted in colonialist/imperialist projects globally.
What is your most recent professional accomplishment?
I co-edited a special issue of the Journal of College and Character on emerging research that examines religious, secular, and spiritual identity issues in higher education from a critical lens. My own article in the special issue is about why researchers shouldn’t take participants’ self-reported religious identity labels at face value, especially if those labels suggest no religious affiliation. The entire issue is available open access until the end of November.
How long have you been a member of the Religion & Education Collaborative?
Less than a year.
Are you interested in research collaboration? If so, in which topical areas?
Sure! I’m always interested in connecting with folx who use an overtly critical lens to examine religion, religious identity, and Christian supremacy anywhere in the world.
Would you feel comfortable if REC members contacted you about your research or teaching?