Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor and Chair of Graduate Affairs, Religious Studies, McMaster University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2003
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Religion, Princeton University
A Grave Crisis: Burial Societies and the New Japanese Buddhism

This project explores Buddhist responses to the radical transformation of contemporary Japanese burial practices. My dissertation examines "burial societies" created to cater to the growing number of Japanese who refuse to be interred in family graves, cannot afford their own plots, or lack the requisite descendants to maintain them. The ongoing debate over the status, treatment, and location of the dead is directly tied to questions of contemporary Japanese religiosity and brings into sharp focus institutional Buddhism's efforts to maintain its legitimacy amidst major societal changes. A central premise of this study is that changes in burial practices are not merely reflections of societal shifts, but may also be the very arena where social norms are first contested. My research on new burial trends focuses on issues of religious freedom, women's rights, and self-determination.