This project will explore the unique religious diversity of Los Angeles in the 1920s through both the production of a Master's thesis for Cal Poly's History Graduate program, and the contribution of material content to the California Pluralism Project, a NEH-funded program supporting California's Religious Studies curriculum. This project will focus on two case studies as representative examples of Southern California's progressive tolerance in the period of the 1920s: The Pentecostal megachurch of Aimee Semple-McPherson, and the Vedanta Ashram of Swami Paramananda. Both religious institutions opened in Los Angeles in 1923, just thirteen miles away from each other, and continued to thrive side-by-side throughout the twentieth century until today, as both institutions continue to operate in their original locations. Beyond the exploration of these two institutions, this project will also approach the broader topics of religious pluralism in 1920s Los Angeles, the impact of immigration and urbanization on the religious diversity of Southern California, and the shifting religious climate of post-WWI America generally. Though it will focus on two religious institutions specifically, it is more broadly an examination of the potential for religious pluralism, and even religious redefinition, in areas of rapidly-growing, diverse populations. The final outcome of this project will include not only a Master's thesis, but a case study that can be converted into educational models for distribution through the California Pluralism Project.
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