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Faking Liberties

Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan

Jolyon Baraka Thomas



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University of Chicago Press
08 April 2019
Religious freedom is a founding tenet of the United States, and it has frequently been used to justify policies towards other nations. Such was the case in 1945 when Americans occupied Japan following World War II. Though the Japanese constitution had guaranteed freedom of religion since 1889, the United States declared that protection faulty, and when the occupation ended in 1952, they claimed to have successfully replaced it with real religious freedom.

Through a fresh analysis of pre-war Japanese law, Jolyon Baraka Thomas demonstrates that the occupiers' triumphant narrative obscured salient Japanese political debates about religious freedom. Indeed, Thomas reveals that American occupiers also vehemently disagreed about the topic. By reconstructing these vibrant debates, Faking Liberties unsettles any notion of American authorship and imposition of religious freedom. Instead, Thomas shows that, during the Occupation, a dialogue about freedom of religion ensued that constructed a new global set of political norms that continue to form policies today.
By:   Jolyon Baraka Thomas
Imprint:   University of Chicago Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 229mm,  Width: 152mm, 
ISBN:   9780226618821
ISBN 10:   022661882X
Series:   Class 200: New Studies in Religion
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   08 April 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Jolyon Baraka Thomas is an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Reviews for Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan

Thomas draws on an impressive array of important sources to argue that although religious freedom solves problems of inequity and oppression, it creates new problems and is inherently coercive. --Choice Faking Liberties is a challenging intervention into not only the historiography of modern Japan, but religious studies more generally. --New Books Network Given that the last decade has seen a number of scholarly works detailing the establishment of 'religion' as a concept in early Meiji Japan, Thomas's efforts to show how the category of religion was negotiated in Japan during the entire first half of the twentieth century represents a welcome move forward in time. Meticulously researched, theoretically sharp, and elegantly written, Faking Liberties is an excellent study not only of how religious freedom was constructed as a transnational ideal through mutual negotiation during the period of American occupation, but also of how various actors interacted with religious freedom during the interbellum period. Faking Liberties is a welcome addition to the field of Japanese religious studies as well as to the critical study of religion and law. --H-Net Reviews

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