Visiting professor holds lecture on ‘Legacy of Dominance in Japanese-American Monuments’

Photo by Anh Le / MTSU Sidelines

Story by Emily Blalock / Contributing Writer

MTSU’s Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies hosted Brett Esaki’s lecture on discussing the controversies surrounding historical monuments on Friday in the James Union Building.

Esaki, who is a visiting assistant professor from the University of Arizona, specializes in Asian-American studies with a focus on spirituality, pop culture and comprehensive sustainability. His lecture, titled “Legacy of Dominance in Japanese American Monuments,” discussed memorials built by three artists: Isamu Noguchi, George Tsutakawa and Robert Murase.

Rebekka King, the director of religious studies at MTSU, began the event by introducing Esaki and his book, “Enfolding Silence: The Transformation of Japanese American Religion and Art Under Oppression.”

“His publications detail how American minorities, including Asian Americans and African Americans, creatively use religion to preserve, reinvent and discover a sense of their full humanity,” she explained.

Esaki assessed the changing definition of what it means to be an American and how minority groups have historically struggled with their identity under American dominance.

He discussed the historical impact of Japanese internment camps in America during World War II and how it continues to affect people today.

“For Japanese Americans, who are not directly affected by the bombs, it left a psychic impact because Americans openly celebrated the incineration or total dominance of people like themselves,” Esaki said. “I watched a bunch of atomic bomb documentaries and videos, and I think it’s pretty true (that) trauma is passed down genetically. Watching atomic bombs for me is particularly scarily traumatic.”

Anna-Marie Duchac, an MTSU senior and history major, said the event was interesting and informative.

“I am currently taking Japanese, and I figured this would be something interesting to go along with what I’m learning,” Duchac said. “I hope to go to Japan next semester,”

She was most interested in “the parallels between the Japanese internment camps that Esaki was talking about and what happened with the Native Americans.”

“That’s something that we’re really covering right now in one of my history classes,” Duchac explained.

King believes that this event was important for students of all majors.

“This question of how monuments operate is really important,” King said. “It continues to be particularly relevant in the South and particularly relevant at MTSU. The ongoing struggle on the part of students to remove the Forrest Hall logo from Forrest Hall and have that building renamed speaks to some of the same themes about what monuments do.”

For their next event, the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies is teaming up with MT Engage to host a Religion and Drag Show Panel. The event will take place on Thursday, Oct. 22 in the Student Union from 3 until 5 p.m.

To contact news Editor Caleb Revill, email

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