Rapid urbanization and social transformations have created the “relationless society” of contemporary Japan, epitomized by the elderly dying alone, their bodies undiscovered for days or weeks. Japanese religions have largely been unrecognized as building community in contemporary Japanese society because Buddhism is largely associated with death and funerals. Nevertheless, my ethnographic research uncovers how women actively construct new and evolving communities through Buddhist worldviews, reconstructing and reinterpreting doctrine through affective and embodied experiences. Drawing on transnational feminism, affect theory, and lived religion, my scholarship embraces emotions and bodies as legitimate sources of knowledge.
My book project based on this research, Feeling Buddhism, argues that Buddhist women in Japan actively cultivate what I call “feeling Buddhism,” a mode of religiosity that emphasizes the emotional and sensorial aspects of Buddhist doctrine and practice. My research reveals that Buddhist nuns, female priests, and laywomen perform essential emotional and affective labor for other women which is, I contend, an unacknowledged form of socially engaged Buddhism, or Buddhism focused on improving the world. My project is the first to translate transnational feminism, associated with the Global South, to Japan and the first comprehensive study of the contemporary Pure Land sect (Jodoshu) in English or Japanese.
Overall, my research strives to diversify the kind of voices that appear in connection with religious interpretation, amplifying the experiences and understandings of everyday women who find meaning and significance in Buddhist practice, particularly laywomen who are often missing in discussions of Buddhism. My scholarship highlights the voices and experiences of those who have traditionally not been included in the “canon” of either religious studies or Asian studies to more accurately depict religious realities.
Check out my Curriculum Vitae!