In an historical moment characterized by attempts to “green” Shintō by linking it to environmentalism or to mobilize Shintō concepts in the service of rightwing Japanese nationalist agendas, the exigency of clarifying the precise nature of this Japanese religion is clear. While recent scholarship has elucidated the origins of kami worship and the historical emergence of “Shintō” as a discrete religion separate from Buddhism, the relationship between Shintō and other spheres of social life in modern and contemporary Japan remains insufficiently understood. Depending on who one asks, Shintō is either the indigenous religion of the Japanese archipelago, the irreducible core of Japanese culture, a tiny subset of Japanese Buddhism, an oppressive political ideology linked to the emperor system, an environmentalist ethic, or some combination of these. Our project brings together historians, anthropologists, and scholars of religion from around the globe to collaborate with students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania and other schools in the Philadelphia area in addressing a simple question with a complicated answer: “What isn’t Shintō”?

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Invited Speakers:

Mark Teeuwen, University of Oslo

Sarah Thal, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Chika Watanabe, University of Manchester

Aike P. Rots, University of Oslo

Takashi Miura, University of Arizona

Student Presenters:

John Grisafi (History & EALC, Penn)

Tianran Hang (EALC, Penn)

Kaitlyn Ugoretz (EALC, Penn)

(Ms. Shiyun HU unfortunately had to withdraw from the symposium.)


Jolyon Thomas, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages & Civilizations, Penn