Buddhist Women’s Literature in 20th Century Japan
April 08, 2016
The Japan Foundation has awarded Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jessica Starling a short-term Japanese Studies Fellowship. This award will allow Dr. Starling to spend six weeks in Kyoto, Japan to conduct research for her project, “Buddhist women’s associations and the production of religious literature for women (fujin kyoke) in modern Japan.” Based at Otani University in Kyoto, she will be collecting religious educational materials published by temples and women’s groups during the early 20th century. These tracts imported the primarily negative messages about women’s salvation from medieval Buddhist doctrine, but framed them with prefaces and postscripts touting the achievements and importance of “ladies” (fujin) in modern society. Dr. Starling’s project will investigate the relationship between Buddhist laywomen and the male priests who wrote for them about what it meant to be a Buddhist woman. The research will culminate in an article exploring the negotiation of social capital and narrative voice during this episode of Buddhist history, highlighting the complex dynamics involved in the inscription and performance of gender roles in modern Japan. More information about Dr. Starling’s scholarship is available here, and more about the Japan Foundation’s short-term fellowship program is available here.