You are here

Japanese Religions Unit

Call for Proposals

We invite papers sessions, individual papers, and roundtables that address all aspects of Japanese religious practice and thought. All time periods welcome. To facilitate maximal 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.).

Our Unit is committed to diversity and inclusion. We 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. Showing little or no regard for such diversity will exercise an adverse effect on the likelihood that your proposal will be accepted.

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 AAR theme is “The AAR as a Scholarly Guild.” José Cabazón, AAR president in 2020, has suggested that, because the AAR is looking back on more than fifty years as an association, and a century since its founding as the National Association of Biblical Instructors, now is a suitable time to reflect on our disciplinary formation. Of course, proposals need not be limited to this theme.

Our Unit has two options: (a) one 2.5 hour session and one 2 hour session; or (b) one 2 hour session and two 90 min sessions. Co-sponsorship adds one 90 min session to this allotment. We aim to sponsor more 90 min sessions to allow more people to participate. Please keep this in mind as you compose your proposal.

Also, we would like to remind you about the Women in the Study of Asian Religions (WISAR) website ( Some of us attended the Buddhism section, “Fostering Diversity in the Study of Asian Religions,” and learned that “this website was created to facilitate greater representation of women in scholarly activities by providing a crowdsourced list of female scholars working in Asian Religions.” We encourage everybody to use this website to go beyond old networks to seek new ones, as suggested at the Fostering Diversity panel, and to help us further strengthen our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Below are possible topics proposed by our members this year. We welcome proposals on other topics as well. Please contact the proposers if you are interested in participating in these proposals:

• New research on new religious movements in Asia (Tim Smith, UNC-Chapel Hill

• Problematizing “Japan” in colonial religious experience in imperial Japan (Daigengna Duoer, UC Santa Barbara

• Vengeful spirits, ghosts, and other non-kami and non-buddha entities in Japanese religions (Takashi Miura, University of Arizona

• Wasan (和讃) as a genre in Japanese religions (Christopher Callahan, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

• Before Shintoization: The Social Reality of Kami Shrines, Rituals, and Myths in Classical and Early Medieval Japan (Ethan Bushelle, Western Washington University
For possible co-sponsorship with the Japanese Religions Unit and the Society for the Study of Japanese Religions. The Society for the Study of Japanese Religions hopes to sponsor a professional development workshop for early career scholars. In particular, we seek junior and mid-career professionals who have successfully navigated the job market (both in and out of academe). We seek mutual mentors who can share their life hacks, helpful hints, war stories, and sense of humor as they advise others through the major hurdles of job applications, interviews, negotiating contracts, revising the diss-to-ms, preparing the tenure portfolios, establishing work-life balance, etc. Other suggestions are most welcome.
Contact Pamela Winfield, Levi McLaughlin, Asuka Sango

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

Review Process Comments

Considerable discussion plays out between steering committee members as we rank the proposals.