The Most Segregated Hour:
Race and Religion in the American West

During the 20th century, the potent forces of religion and race have intersected in compelling and significant ways. Especially within the geographic and imaginative space of the American West, religious, racial and ethnic identities have been shaped by shifting individual and communal definitions as well as by wider social, economic, and political forces. Through complex mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, racial, religious, and ethnic communities have policed the boundaries of their own membership, emphasizing the perceived commonalities of insiders and differences of outsiders. At times the borders of racial and religious groups have overlapped to reinforce the separation of identities, such as Black Muslim, White Protestant, and Latin Catholic. At other times the categories of race and religion challenge stereotyped notions of identification, such as Japanese-American Methodists, affluent white pagans, and African American practitioners of Zen Buddhism.

Through this conference, we seek to explore ways in which religion, ethnicity, and race have confronted and combined with each other. And, because it has been a region where these categories are particularly open to the mixtures of peoples and cultures, we have chosen the American West as the site for both the conference and its subject. Given the fluidity of religious and ethnic identity, we are especially interested in topics that address the issue of how individuals or communities envision their respective identities. This conference seeks to bring together participants from both the academic and religious communities in order to engage in discussions over how regional, racial, ethnic and religious categories inform questions of identity politics, cultural interactions, and theological concerns.

  • What is the role of religion in cultural assimilation?
  • What is the role of religion and race in social activism?
  • How do religion and race factor into business and commerce?
  • How has race played a role in contests for sacred space?
  • How have insider/outsider statuses shaped religious groups and been shaped by them?
  • How have theological/religious concepts been used to include and exclude various racial/ethnic groups?
  • How have issues of fundamentalism and evangelicalism intersected questions of religion and ethnicity?

We are also interested in larger issues of interactions between faiths, especially in light of current events in the Middle East, and are planning a round table discussion with experts in various religions to fuel a discussion on the local aspects of the new global situation. It is our hope that these discussions and the pertinent nature of the conference in general will draw interest and involvement not only from scholars and religious leaders, but from the wider community as well.

Invited Speakers

  • Rudy Busto, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Donald Dayton, Azusa Pacific University
  • William Deverell, California Institute of Technology
  • Doug Flamming, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Philip Goff, Indiana University, Purdue University
  • Jane Iwamura, University of Southern California
  • Laurie Maffly-Kipp, University of North Carolina
  • Armand Mauss, Emeritus, Washington State University
  • Randi Jones Walker, Pacific School of Religion
  • H. Mark Wild, California State University, Los Angeles

Seminar Schedule

Friday, February 27

9-9:30 Welcome and Opening Remarks

9:30-12:30 Civil Redemption in the West

  • Doug Flamming,
    “Separation for Integration: African American Churches and Civil Rights Activism in Los Angeles, 1890-1940?”
    Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Jane Iwamura,
    “Critical Faith: Japanese Americans and the Birth of a New Civil Religion,”
    University of Southern California
  • Moderator:
    Colleen McDannell, University of Utah

12:30-2:00 Lunch

2:00-5:00 Seeing Races, Hearing Gods

  • Laurie Maffly-Kipp,
    “Engaging Habits and Besotted Idolatry: Practicing Race in the American West,”
    University of North Carolina
  • Armand Mauss,
    “Children of Ham and Children of Abraham: Construction and Deconstruction of Ethnic Identities in the Mormon Heartland,”
    Emeritus, Washington State University
  • Philip Goff,
    “By Radio Every Sunday: Hyperreality, Race, and the Formation of Religious Community in the American West,”
    Indiana University-Purdue
  • Moderator:
    Tracy Fessenden, Arizona State University

Saturday, February 28

9:00-12:00 God, Nation, Race and Space

  • Randi Jones Walker,
    “Unpacking for a Journey Across Racial Lines among Protestants in the North American West 1850-1950,”
    Pacific School of Religion
  • Bill Deverell and H. Mark Wild,
    “Going Against the Grain: G. Bromley Oxnam and the Quest for Multiracial Religious Community,”
    Bill Deverell, California Institute of Technology and H. Mark Wild, California State University-Los Angeles
  • Mary Jane O’Donnell,
    “American Muslim Identity in the Making: The Islamic Center of Southern California,”
    Doctoral Student, School of Religion, Claremont Graduate University

12:00-2:00 Lunch

2:00-4:30 Roundtable

4:30-5:30 Conference Wrap Up
Ann Taves

Contact Information

2004 Bradshaw Seminar
Centers for the Arts & Humanities | Claremont Graduate University
121 East Tenth Street | Claremont, CA 91711
Tel.: 909.621.8612 | Fax: 909.607.1221
Email: Bradshaw@cgu.edu