In this interview, Jason Josephson discusses the Japanese appropriation of the modern category of "religion." He first describes how Shinto is typically represented in EuroAmerican religious studies courses. He then describes the various actors and processes (both European and native)...

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Scholars interested in Asian religions have often noted that European colonialism simultaneously disrupted native societies and to various degrees created the modern social identities commonly referred to as “Buddhism,” “Confucianism,” “Taoism,” “Shinto,” etc. Inspired by Edward Said and others, these scholars recognize the change and adaptation that resulted from colonial encounters, specifically as they relate to the natives’ appropriation of the modern category of religion.

In this interview, Jason Josephson discusses these issues and more, specifically as they relate to Japan and the formation of Shinto. Josephson first describes how Shinto is typically represented in EuroAmerican religious studies courses. He then describes the various actors and processes (both European and native) that were involved in the Japanese appropriation of the modern category of religion, paying particular attention to the material and economic interests embedded in these larger processes.

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Learning to Unlearn “Religion”: Jason Ānanda Josephson on the Invention of Religion in Japan

Would it be better to say “Japanese Religions”? How about “religions of Japan”? Or, is “religion” even the best word to use to describe the Japanese traditions we’re studying? One of the first Religious Studies courses in which I enrolled was titled “Japanese Religion.” There were several themes running through the course, but the one that stuck with me as the most important was something the professor asked during the first meeting of the class:

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