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25 Remote Warehouse World History- Japan

This title in other editions

The Invention of Religion in Japan


The Invention of Religion in Japan Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Throughout its long history, Japan had no concept of what we call “religion.” There was no corresponding Japanese word, nor anything close to its meaning. But when American warships appeared off the coast of Japan in 1853 and forced the Japanese government to sign treaties demanding, among other things, freedom of religion, the country had to contend with this Western idea. In this book, Jason Ananda Josephson reveals how Japanese officials invented religion in Japan and traces the sweeping intellectual, legal, and cultural changes that followed.
More than a tale of oppression or hegemony, Josephson’s account demonstrates that the process of articulating religion offered the Japanese state a valuable opportunity. In addition to carving out space for belief in Christianity and certain forms of Buddhism, Japanese officials excluded Shinto from the category. Instead, they enshrined it as a national ideology while relegating the popular practices of indigenous shamans and female mediums to the category of “superstitions”—and thus beyond the sphere of tolerance. Josephson argues that the invention of religion in Japan was a politically charged, boundary-drawing exercise that not only extensively reclassified the inherited materials of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shinto to lasting effect, but also reshaped, in subtle but significant ways, our own formulation of the concept of religion today. This ambitious and wide-ranging book contributes an important perspective to broader debates on the nature of religion, the secular, science, and superstition.

About the Author

Jason Ananda Josephson is assistant professor of religion at Williams College.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

A Note on Texts and Translations


     The Advent of Religion in Japan

     Obscure Obstacles

     Unlearning Shukyo

     Unlearning “Religion”

     Overview of the Work

1. The Marks of Heresy

     Difference Denied: Hierarchical Inclusion

     Strange Aberrations: Exclusive Similarity

     Hunting Heretics

2. Heretical Anthropology

     Contested Silences: Two Versions of the Acts of the Saints

     Demonic Dharma

     Japanese Heretics and Pagans

3. The Arrival of Religion

     Negotiating “Religion”

     Taxonomy and Translation: Category in the Webs of Meaning

     Unreasonable Demands

4. The Science of the Gods

     Shinto as a “Nonreligion”

     The Way of the Gods

     Celestial Archeology: The Advent of European Science in Japan

     The Science of the Gods: Philology and Cosmology

     Ritual Therapeutics for the Body of the Nation

     The Gods of Science

     From Miraculous Revolution to Mechanistic Cosmos

5. Formations of the Shinto Secular

     Secularism Revisited

     Hygienic Modernity and the World of Reality

     Secular Apotheosis

6. Taming Demons

     The Demons of Modernity

     Restraining the Wild

     Monstrous Gods

     Evil Cults

     Disciplining Buddhism, Expelling Christianity

7. Inventing Japanese Religion

     Religion in Japanese International Missions

     Controlling the Heart: Debating the Role of Religion in the Modern State

     Inventing “Japanese Religions”

8. Religion within the Limits

     Internal Convictions

     External Controls

     The Birth of Religious Studies in Japan


     The Invention of Superstition

     The Invention of the Secular

     The Invention of Religion

     The Third Term


Appendix. Religion Explained

Character Glossary



Product Details

Josephson, Jason Ananda
University of Chicago Press
Politics - General
World History-Japan
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » World History » Japan
Religion » Comparative Religion » General
Religion » Eastern Religions » Japanese Religion and Literature

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