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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 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. Creative formats are encouraged (film, organized discussion, pre-circulated papers/texts, workshop, etc.), as are co-sponsored programs with other units of the AAR or associated societies.

This year's presidential theme is "The Work of Our Hands.” 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 possible topics proposed by our members this year. We welcome proposals on other topics as well. Please contact the co-chairs if you are interested in participating in these proposals:

  • Religion in the aftermath of Shinzo Abe’s Assassination
  • Employment of Natural Elements, Ritual and Landscape
  • Sacred Mountains
  • Religious Space
  • Heretical Practices
  • Religious Experimentalism
  • Religious “Waste” and Reuse
  • Tokugawa Religions 
  • Unorthodox/unauthorized/unwelcomed practices at religious sites 

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

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 committed to diversity and inclusion. We strongly encourage considering balance in terms of gender, 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 have an adverse effect on the likelihood that your proposal will be accepted.

We would like to remind you about the Women in the Study of Asian Religions website ( 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 everyone to go beyond old networks to seek new ones, and to help us further strengthen our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Religion and healing in the "North Pacific Intersystem": Roundtable discussion of Justin Stein's Alternate Currents (co-sponsored session between the Japanese Religions, Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society, North American Religions, and New Religious Movements Units) 

Responding to this year’s conference theme in a literal way, this author-meets-critics roundtable focuses on a brand-new book about Reiki, the therapeutic practice that involves transmitting energy from the hands to heal self and others. Just as Reiki channels flows of energy, Justin B. Stein’s Alternate Currents (forthcoming from University of Hawai`i Press, 2023) tracks transnational flows of people, ideas, and ritual practice throughout the “North Pacific Intersystem.” Emerging at the overlapping boundaries of the Japanese, United States, and British empires and drawing on Buddhist and Native American wisdom, the practice of Reiki has been as malleable as the currents of energy its practitioners purport to channel. Matching the expansive scope of Stein’s wide-ranging and creative book, this panel will bring together specialists in Japanese, Asian American, and North American religions to discuss how a Japanese American woman turned Reiki into a global therapeutic practice.  

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