Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion:
Jolyon Baraka Thomas (co-winner)
University of Pennsylvania
Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan (University of Chicago Press)
From the jury:
In Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan, Jolyon Baraka Thomas presents the reader with a robust example of how religious freedom is not a self-evident thing, but a category always under negotiation, and always with winners and losers. Thomas shows how the pre-war Japanese were demonized by American forces as lacking a variety of fundamental rights, most notably, a “freedom of religion,” this despite the fact that the Japanese actually embraced such a constitutional concept. Thomas argues that American ideals of “religious freedom” were part of a much larger project of Occupation that, in the case of Japan and the category “religion,” constrained as much as they freed.