2013 Kameyama Buddhism Seminar Series

Speaker: Professor Elisabetta Porcu (University of Leipzig)
Title: “Consumerism and Popular Culture in Contemporary Japanese Buddhism

When: 4:00-6:00 P.M., March 7th (Thu), 2013
Where: Room 604, Asian Centre

Japanese Buddhist institutions in contemporary Japan are striving to cope with a series of major changes in the sociocultural sphere. These include a progressive loss of members, population aging, disinterest of younger generations in religion, and the need felt by Buddhist priests of presenting their tradition as a lively force that is not only associated to funerary rites and other memorial rituals related to the ancestors. At the same time, Buddhism in Japan is facing the challenges of new dynamics related to globalization and of a world context where economics is a dominant force. In this regard, the connection between religion and the market has considerably intensified in the past decades, while marketing strategies—including close collaboration between religious groups and commercial enterprises—that are used by religious organizations to address their adherents and potential converts have come to the fore. This has become a common denominator in religious organizations and has brought about the creation of marketable products that are thriving at temples and shrines in Japan. Against this backdrop, Japanese Buddhist denominations are making use of different communication formats that are drawing on popular culture and its array of manifestations. In this talk, Professor Porcu will present some results of her ongoing book project Japanese Religions, Popular Culture and the Media and focus on the ways Japanese Buddhist institutions are employing these formats for proselytization and promotional scopes together with the dynamics that lie behind and characterize such communication strategies.


Bio of the speaker
Professor Elisabetta Porcu, PhD in religious studies (2006), is currently a Numata Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Hawaii (January–July 2013). In Germany, she is affiliated with the Centre for Area Studies at the University of Leipzig. Before moving to Leipzig, from 2004 to 2010 she worked at Ryūkoku University, Ōtani University, and Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, as well as undertook extensive fieldwork in Japan. She is currently writing a book on Japanese Religions, Popular Culture and the Media. Among her recent publications are Pure Land Buddhism in Modern Japanese Culture (Brill 2008); “Speaking through the Media: Shin Buddhism, Popular Culture, and the Internet” (in U. Dessì, ed., The Social Dimension of Shin Buddhism, Brill 2010); “On- and Off-line Representations of Japanese Buddhism: Reflections on a Multifaceted Religious Tradition” (in Pacific World 32/1, 2010); and “Observations on the Blurring of the Religious and the Secular in a Japanese Urban Setting” (in Journal of Religion in Japan 1/1, 2012). Her research interests include: Japanese religions; Japanese Buddhism; Pure Land Buddhism; Japanese religions, culture, media and consumerism; and the religious and the secular at the community level. She is the editor, together with Paul Watt, and founding editor of the Journal of Religion in Japan (Brill).