Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Area and Cultural Studies
World-Wide Shinto: The Globalization of 'Japanese' Religion

I propose to conduct a 12-month multi-sited, digital ethnographic research project investigating the development of transnational online religious communities dedicated to the indigenous Japanese tradition known as Shinto and the involvement of Shinto clergy and shrines in Japan and the United States. 41% of Shinto shrines in Japan are in danger of disappearing, yet certain shrines including Fushimi Inari, Tsubaki, and Shusse Inari have discovered an untapped spiritual and material market in foreigners; thousands have become interested in Shinto to the point of identifying as Shintoists, joining online communities and international confraternities run by Shinto shrines, supporting overseas shrine construction, and consuming Japanese products. With the SSRC's support, I will conduct fieldwork primarily situated physically at shrines in Japan and Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America in Seattle, WA, as well as on Facebook where online Shinto communities have formed. My research will answer two fundamental questions: How is Shinto being presented to foreigners? How is Shinto being translated and transformed by the particular contexts of practitioners around the world? Combining traditional and digital ethnographic methods, I will investigate how Shinto shrines are refashioning Shinto as a world religion by producing introductory encounters with Shinto in Japan and the US and maintaining connections through social networks and digital media which draw foreigners into enduring relationships with Japanese religion and culture.