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Speaker: Levi McLaughlin, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious studies, North Carolina State University
Moderator: Daniel M. Smith, Gerald L. Curtis Visiting Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy, Columbia University
Turmoil following the shocking murder of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzō on July 8, 2022 by a gunman who bore a grudge against the Unification Church (UC) has reinforced the fact that we must attend to religion in order to understand politics in Japan. In this talk, Levi McLaughlin (North Carolina State University) will contextualize revelations about the UC and its political connections as he surveys how religions and religion-adjacent activists in Japan exert a decisive impact on vote-gathering, policymaking, and party politics. McLaughlin will draw on his ethnographic and historical research to provide an overview of Shinto-affiliated nationalists (including the lobby organization Nippon Kaigi and its signatories), Buddhists (including Soka Gakkai and its affiliated party Komeito), and other actors to reconcile the incommensurate image of Japan as non-religious with the persistence of Japan's religiously-inspired political engagements, and he will discuss precedents for the moral panic that has surged in the wake of Abe's assassination to interpret ways Japan's religion/politics nexus is now developing.
Speaker's Bio: Levi McLaughlin is Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, North Carolina State University. He is co-author of Kōmeitō: Politics and Religion in Japan (IEAS Berkeley, 2014) and author of Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution: The Rise of a Mimetic Nation in Modern Japan (University of Hawai`i Press, 2019), as well as numerous book chapters and articles on religion and politics in Japan.
This event is sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute.