You are here

Japanese Religions Unit

Call for Proposals for November Meeting

We invite papers sessions, individual papers, and roundtables that address all aspects of Japanese religious practice and thought. All time periods are welcome. To facilitate maximal exchange within and beyond Japanese religions, we prefer proposals that include explicit reflection on the study of religion more broadly. This year's presidential theme is "Violence, Nonviolence, and the Margin.” Proposals need not be limited to this theme, but they should reflect a robust engagement with scholarship on religion beyond the Japanese context.

Below are topics proposed by our members this year. Please contact the person listed if you would like to collaborate on one of these topics:


The Assassination of Abe Shinzo and Its Aftermaths

The assassination of Abe Shinzō in the summer of 2022 is one of the most important events in the political history of 21st-century Japanese religions. This papers session seeks to explore the implications of this event in line with the 2024 AAR Presidential Theme: Violence, Nonviolence, and the Margin. Possible paper topics include: popular representations of Abe and his assassin as martyrs; the media coverage of marginal religions post-Abe; possible changes to the legal framework governing religions; and the social construction of the “cult problem” and the “shūkyō nisei” problem in the Japanese public sphere. (Contact: Adam Lyons,


Violence and the Problem of Evil in Japanese Religions

This paper sessions seeks to explore the problem of evil as expressed across a variety of Japanese religious traditions throughout its history. In recognition of the 2024 AAR Presidential Theme: Violence, Nonviolence, and the Margin, we especially invite explorations of the negotiation of evil as it pertains to the margin. How is salvation articulated, whether through text, image, or practice, in the face of violence and evil acts? This paper session invites scholars of all ranks including graduate students working across historic and methodological contexts. (Contact: Eric Haruki Swanson,


The State and Future of the Study of Premodern Japanese Religions

This roundtable seeks to examine the place of the premodern in study of Japanese religions, with an emphasis on its future trajectory. We invite scholars from all ranks including graduate students to share short reflections on the shifts and current state of the field and to engage in an open discussion regarding the relevance of the study of the premodern in the academy today. (Contact: Eric Haruki Swanson,

Contributing at the margins? Social welfare roles of religious organizations in Japan. Socio-historical and constitutional factors, coupled with a predominant focus on state-led social welfare initiatives, have positioned Japanese religions on the periphery of the formal welfare structures. This context has shaped the roles and contributions of religious organizations in Japan, compelling them to operate at the margins of societal and governmental frameworks. Drawing on empirical research and case studies, this session questions such marginality by providing insights into the dynamic and multifaceted roles played by Japanese religious institutions contributing to social welfare, disaster relief, and various other community-centric social contribution activities. The goal is to critically assess the impact of religious organizations on community development and quality of life, also evaluating the effectiveness of their initiatives, the challenges faced, and the status of, or the potential for, collaboration with governmental and non-governmental entities. (Contact: Paola Cavaliere,


We welcome proposals on other topics as well. Creative formats (films, organized discussion, pre-circulated papers/texts, workshop, etc.) are encouraged, as are co-sponsored programs with other units of the AAR or associated societies.  For instance, recent co-sponsorship partners have included Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society Unit; Esotericism Unit; Bioethics and Religion Unit; and the Hagiography Society.  We encourage proposers to think broadly about ways they can engage their work on Japanese religion with current questions in the field, and with scholars working on religion in regions beyond Japan.


In submitting proposals, please follow the AAR guidelines carefully.  First-timers are encouraged to contact the co-chairs for additional advice (Jessica Starling at and Takashi Miura at

Our Unit is allotted two two-hour sessions. Co-sponsorship adds an additional 90-minute session.


Our Unit is committed to diversity and inclusion. We strongly encourage considering balance in terms of gender, ethnicity, nationality, and institutional affiliation, as well as balance between graduate students, junior scholars, and senior scholars. Showing little or no regard for such diversity will have an adverse effect on the likelihood that your proposal will be accepted.

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.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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