Brett Esaki
Learning Services Building 132
Esaki, Brett J
Assistant Professor of Practice

Dr. Brett J. Esaki (Ph.D. in Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara) specializes in Asian American studies, with a focus on spirituality, popular culture, and comprehensive sustainability. He focuses on methods to examine religion on the ground, especially ethnography, cultural studies, and subjugated history. His publications detail how American minorities, including Asian Americans and African Americans, creatively use religion and art to preserve, to reinvent, and to discover a sense of their full humanity. He is the author of Enfolding Silence: The Transformation of Japanese American Religion and Art under Oppression (Oxford 2016). Dr. Esaki's teaching specialties include Asian American religions; religion and popular culture, including hip hop and other embodied arts; and history, ideology, and philosophy of race and in the United States.

Area of Specialization: 

Religion and Art; Religion and Popular Culture; Sustainability; Asian American Studies; African American Studies

Currently Teaching

EAS 250 – Hidden Histories of Asian Pacific Americans

Asian American Studies is an interdisciplinary field that arose out of the shared concerns of students of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the United States. Seeing that their universities had neglected Asian Pacific American (APA) perspectives, these students sought courses and research on the contribution of APAs to the United States. Accordingly, this course will introduce neglected and overlooked histories and perspectives of APAs. In the process, we will explore key issues in Asian American politics, racial formation, and culture. Themes includes identity, migration, class, gender, sexuality, panethnicity, youth culture, and social movements. Moreover, the process of unearthing hidden histories will provide practice for students of nearly any background to identify patterns of missing information and to formulate strategies to rediscover it.

JPN 245 – Japanese Popular Culture: Manga, Anime, and So Much More!

This course will explore contemporary Japanese society by investigating its colorful, dynamic, and rich output of visual culture. More specifically, we will look at manga, cinematic anime, and items of material culture, illustrating how these examples of popular art teach us about the various aspects of life in Japan.

JPN 355 – From Godzilla to Hello Kitty! US-Japan Popular Culture

Throughout the contemporary era, the United States' popular culture has spread abroad, including to Japan. After the American Occupation of Japan, Japanese popular culture began to spread to the United States, notably in film and animation. From this point onward, both nations' popular cultures have mutually influenced each other and in some cases created crossovers, where Japanese popular culture would be recreated in the United States and United States' popular culture would be recreated in Japan. This course takes a cultural studies approach to the rich exchange of these pieces of hybrid popular culture and the social, political, cultural, and sometimes violent forces that undergird them, along with the real lives affected by these forces. It will reflect on the original context of the popular culture in the United States or Japan, its recontextualization and translation in the other country, and in some cases further iterations of this process. Themes include war, Orientalism, horror, the radical Other, and entertainment industries. Media include film, theatre, animation, toys, haunted houses, and origami.