Redefining Shinto: Paradigms, Power, Plurality
Aike P. Rots
Stipendiat ved Institutt for kulturstudier og orientalske språk (IKOS)
My PhD research project focuses on definitions and conceptualisations of ‘Shinto’ in postwar and contemporary Japanese society. In the course of modern history, the concept of Shinto has been defined by a variety of paradigms, closely related to social and political developments. Different notions of Shinto are intertwined with different notions of national and ethnic identity, as well as with normative notions of ‘religious’ and ‘secular’, that are constantly challenged and renegotiated.
The main questions driving this project are the following: what are the main paradigms by which Shinto has been, and continues to be, defined (in modern and contemporary Japanese society, by scholars as well as representatives of Shinto institutions); and what are the political subtexts underlying these competing paradigms? In particular, how do existing notions of ‘nature’, ‘nation’ and ‘religion’ resonate in contemporary developments and debates? And how are these abstract ideological narratives enacted and negotiated in local practices and institutional policies?
Whereas the topic of the reinvention of Shinto in nineteenth and early twentieth century Japan, and the relationship between Shinto and state ideology, has received considerable scholarly attention, so far little research has been done on postwar institutional and ideological developments. Thus, with this research project, I hope to contribute to a better understanding of the complex dynamics of redefining and representing Shinto in postwar Japanese society. In this, particular emphasis will be placed on the recent trend, advocated by some representatives of the Shinto establishment as well as some foreign observers, to define Shinto as a nature (or even environmentalist) religion.
The research consists of a combination of discourse analysis and ethnographic field research. It is connected to ongoing research at IKOS, as well as the interfaculty research network PluRel (Religion in Pluralist Societies).