PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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Japanese Religions Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

This Unit is a forum for scholars of different disciplines — including textual, historical, anthropological, sociological, ritual, artistic, and other areas of study using different approaches — to present their research findings on various theories and forms of Japanese religious life in the past and in the contemporary setting, within Japan and other areas of the world.

Call for Papers: 

We invite papers sessions, individual papers and roundtables in all aspects of Japanese religious practice and thought, both historical and contemporary. To facilitate greater exchange within and beyond Japanese Religions, we prefer proposals that include explicit reflection on the study of religion more broadly. Creative formats are encouraged (film, organized discussion, pre-circulated papers/texts, workshop, etc.). We also strongly encourage considering balance in terms of gender, and areas of specialization and time periods, as well as balance between graduate students, junior scholars, and senior scholars. In submitting proposals, please follow the AAR guidelines carefully. First-timers are encouraged to contact the co-chairs for additional advice (Asuka Sango at; Levi McLaughlin at

Next year’s Annual Meeting theme is "Religious Studies in Public: The Civic Responsibilities, Opportunities, and Risks Facing Scholars of Religion." But of course, we do not need to be limited to this theme.

Also, we would like to draw attention to an important change in the AAR's session allotment. Our unit used to have two 2.5 hour sessions. However, starting from 2018, we will be given two options: (a) one 2.5-hour session and one 2-hour session; or (b) one 2-hour session and two 90-minutemin sessions. So, we are hoping to sponsor more 90-minute sessions this year to allow more participants.

Below are possible topics proposed by our members this year. We also welcome proposals on other topics as well.

Possible topics for AAR 2018:

• Religion in the Public Sphere in Japan
Jessie Starling,

• Buddhism and Charity
Timothy Benedict,

• Emergent Religion/New Religions
Levi McLaughlin,; Kristina Burhman,

• Religion and the Constitution
Ryūichi Abe,

• Religion, Criminality, and Hostile Publics
Kristina Burhman,

• Issues on the Forthcoming Imperial Abdication
Mark Blum,

• Religions and Social Problems in Contemporary East Asian Literature
Japanese, Chinese and possibly other East Asian countries; co-sponsorship with the Chinese Religions Unit and the Japanese Religions Unit. Haruka Umetsu Cho,

• The Responsibility of Religion Scholars in the Japanese Public
Numerous people formulated this suggestion; please email Asuka Sango,, and she will put you in touch with others who are interested

• Buddhist and other religious universities, scholarly networks, and religious education in Japan
Numerous people formulated this suggestion; please email Asuka Sango,, and she will put you in touch with others who are interested

• Past, Present, and Future of Transreligious Endeavors in Japan
Michel Mohr,

• Japanese Buddhism and War Responsibility
Kuni Terasawa,

• Masculinity in Modern Japanese Religions
Rebecca Mendelson,

• Representations of Anger: The Frightening/Demonic in Japanese Religion
This might include visual (icon, art), performance, or conceptual (text, other)
Cynthea Bogel,

• Revitalizing Buddhism in the Modern World
With regards to shifting demographics, laicization, and institutional reform. Jeff Schroeder (University of Oregon). Co-sponsorship with the Buddhism in the West Unit, the Buddhism Unit, and the Japanese Religions Unit. Contact:

• Buddhist Social Networks in Premodern Japan (co-sponsored by the Buddhism Unit)

• A film screening followed by a panel discussion on the following films:

o An (Sweet Bean) (2015), directed by Kawase Naomi
Asuka Sango,
o The Departure (2017), directed by Lana Wilson
Justin Stein,

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members
ChairSteering Committee