Is California Getting Religion?

Jan. 22 discussion to address religion in California and celebrate UC journal’s examination of the topic

Women in outdoor procession

Women burn incense in a procession in Los Angeles honoring El Patron de los Milagros (the Lord of the Miracles). Peruvian Catholics in Southern California gather in October to ask for forgiveness of sins, perform penance, and honor their national patron. Photo by Jonathan Ritter

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – What does it mean to be religious in California? Is California getting religion?

UC Riverside will host a discussion about religion in California on Friday, Jan. 22, at the Alumni and Visitors Center, 3701 Canyon Crest Drive. The event, “California Getting Religion: BOOM Winter Party,” is free and open to the public. A reception begins at 4 p.m., followed by the discussion at 5 p.m. with scholars from UCR, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, and USC. Complimentary parking is available for attendees; permits must be picked up at the kiosk on West Campus Drive at the University Avenue entrance to the campus.

“California Getting Religion” celebrates the current issue of BOOM: A Journal of California that is dedicated to the topic of religions in California. Boom is published by UC Press and the University of California and aims to inspire readers to create a better California.

Among the articles in the winter issue is “Take it Outside: Practicing religion in public,” co-authored by UCR scholars Jennifer Hughes, associate professor of history, and Amanda Lucia, associate professor of religious studies; James Kyung-Jin Lee, associate professor of Asian American studies at UC Irvine; and S. Romi Mukherjee, a professor of history and religious studies at New York University-Paris.

“California is experiencing a proliferation of public religious celebrations like never before,” the four wrote in “Take it Outside.” “At these festivals, we pray together after a fashion – an unlikely collection of Californians from different places, different faiths – different backgrounds joined for a fleeting moment by the unity of purpose of a shared ritual. The so-called secular cities and towns of California are made sacred by these multiethnic and multifaith public performances.”

La Catrina

A woman dressed as la Catrina, the Mexican skeleton woman, participates in Santa Ana’s Day of the Dead celebration, Noche de Altares. Photo by Bernard Gordillo

The article’s authors are part of a group of professors, students, artists, filmmakers and journalists funded by a $75,000 grant from the University of California Humanities Research Institute, supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, to document the influence of public religious festivals in California.

Public religious festivals are becoming essential to California identity and politics, Hughes said, adding that the research team spent three years examining the place of religion in the public sphere in California and how it is shaping our public and civic culture.

The Boom article documents the Hindu Festival of Colors in Los Angeles, the annual pilgrimage of Japanese Americans in the San Fernando Valley to the World War II internment camp Manzanar, the Lord of Miracles procession and celebration of Peruvian Catholics in Los Angeles, and the Day of the Dead celebration in Santa Ana.

“These public rituals say something about the pursuit of belonging in California, and in the United States, within an increasingly diverse and multicultural landscape,” the authors wrote. “… In sharing these religious and cross-cultural experiences, we become enmeshed in the complicated and vibrant diversity of California . … These collective public celebrations imagine a new kind of citizenship in a way that can assuage our multiculturalist anxieties.”

The event is co-sponsored by BOOM: A Journal of California, UC Humanities Research Institute, and the UC Riverside Center for Ideas and Society, Office of the Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and Department of Religious Studies.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Jennifer Hughes
Tel: (951) 827-5401

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