That’s a really great question, and I don’t know I don’t know if I can answer the question about the contemporary scene. I feel like that’s a different question, and in terms of the historical material, there’s actually one chapter that I’m working on has to do with what is referred to in the Bussei as the “nisei problem”. The nisei problem is basically racism, it’s nisei authors talking about how they’re being discriminated against and can’t get jobs they can’t, you know, join unions and housing problems. And also one of the problems that nisei face is they can’t find wives. So, I write about how that very way of framing the “nisei problem” in hetero-normative gendered language is in and of itself a problem because it obscures the other half of the equation — it obscures the issue that this is not really the nisei problem, but rather it’s the nisei man problem, the male nisei problem.
It raises that question of are women having a similar problem? And I start this part of the book off by pointing out that there’s some very quintessentially 1950s era gender normative stuff in the Bussei, which is depressing, quite frankly. Both because of the way it perpetuates certain gender stereotypes, but also because of the way it obscures what was happening behind the scenes. And so that’s definitely something that I want to talk about in the book, and I’m still thinking about the best way to approach that material. But I think that Jane Imamura and her mother are really good places to go to for this kind of lineage because they very much embody that. Shinobu Matsuura is this person who literally opens her home to allow for this weird collection of her daughter and her husband to translate sutras, and all of these Alan Watts characters — all these other guys to come in and do all of this stuff.
And then she’s the one who takes it upon herself to go to Japan and get the image that’s in the naijin of the of the Berkeley temple. That’s foundational stuff, and her daughter does a lot of the same stuff. Jane was a frequent contributor to the Bussei, so this is where I wanted to get to Jessie Starling’s work with bōmori and sort of think about how even though there’s aspects of the Bussei which are very, very gender normative and problematic in some ways, there’s also this other stuff where you can see that Jane and her mother were taking on leadership roles within the religious community. I want to unpack that. And, finally, I also want to look at the way in which different kinds of labour are devalued. Most of the early volumes of the Bussei will list the editor and the copy editors and the typists – and most of the typists happened to be women. And I think it becomes this standard practice to say “that’s women’s work” and we’re going to devalue it, not take it seriously. And part of what I want to argue is that we need to take that seriously because if they didn’t have typists then we wouldn’t have the Bussei. Alan Watts is nobody without an editor, none of this happens without somebody else’s labour and that’s as much a part of the story, as you know, the by lines and the crazy things that Alan Watts talks about. Those are the things that I absolutely want to draw out. — Dr. Scott Mitchell