The city of San Diego was established in 1769 as the first Catholic mission in California; however, indigenous religious life and practice in the area long predate the arrival of Spanish missionaries. The work of Junípero Serra left an indelible mark on the local religious landscape, as did the later arrival of other communities. In the mid-1800s, hundreds of Mormons came to San Diego to assist the United States Army during the Mexican War, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints still remains one of the largest communities in the city. Judaism also has deep roots in San Diego, with Congregation Beth Israel being founded in 1861. The passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965 and subsequent increase in immigration to the United States led to a further proliferation of Hindu temples, Buddhist temples and mediation centers, mosques, and more. Today, San Diego is one of the most religiously diverse cities in the United States and a hub of interfaith activity.
World Religions in San Diego is a project that seeks to document religious life in our city. The project was developed by Kate DeConinck, teaching professor in the Department of Theology & Religious Studies at the University of San Diego, whose undergraduate courses frequently connect students with members of the local community. Utilizing a “lived religion approach,” students study both broader trends, histories, and beliefs as well as the means by which these dynamics come to life in complicated ways for individuals and living communities. Resisting the persisting, dangerous trend of presenting religions as monolithic or homogenous, this approach instead emphasizes the dynamism and ambiguity that characterize actual lived experience.*
This project is meant to be a public-facing mode of scholarship that invites persons outside of our classroom—or even city—to benefit from the research we do. We present original maps, videos, and other media in hopes that they might be of use to others both inside and outside of academia. This is also a legacy project in the sense that students have the opportunity to contribute to a resource that is bigger than any one person or group could achieve independently. Current students continue to build off the work that past classes have done. Student contributors to this website have received training in ethnographic field methods, interview techniques, film editing, and more, and their finished materials are the result of countless hours of work and thought.
* Given our emphasis on ambiguity, tension, and diversity of beliefs, it is important to note that the individual persons who appear in interviews and other resources on this website are not speaking for their communities as a whole. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed on this website belong solely to individuals, and not necessarily to their broader community/organization or the University of San Diego.