Learning Services Building 132
Office Hours
Spring 2023: Monday 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
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.

EAS 390 – Asian and Pacific Religions in American Spirituality

Throughout the modern development of what has been called "spirituality" in the United States, Asian Pacific Americans along with Asian and Pacific Islander religions have been integral. In the mid-nineteenth century, Asian Pacific American (APA) immigrants brought their religions, and towards the end of the nineteenth century non-APAs enthusiastically brought APA religious teachers to the mainland United States. In the twentieth century, this mixture of APA people and religions continued to reach new communities and develop into independent US-based religions; eventually, these influenced the emergence of more individualistic, non-traditional forms of religion - popularly called 'spirituality.' These lines of influence crisscrossed over the decades, leading to a complex mixture of interests, investments, discourses, and depictions of different racial groups. As a result, this course's examination of Asian and Pacific religions in US-based spirituality engages questions about its definition in distinction to the term 'religion' and in relationship to the social dynamics of race. The course explores its presence in diverse locations such as medicine, theatre, environmental activism, and children's video games.

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.