Jason Ānanda Josephson
Chair & Associate Professor of Religion
Office: Hollander Hall, Rm 302
Phone: (413) 597-2339
M.T.S., Harvard University 2001
Ph.D., Stanford University 2006
On Leave: 2015-2016 (Academic year)
· REL 101: “Introduction to the Study of Religion”
· REL 102: “The Meaning of Life”
· REL 103: “The Way of Power: A History of Occult Knowledge and Practices” with Denise Buell
· REL 200: “Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion”
· REL 250 (ASST 250): “Saints, Scholars, and Immortals: Virtue Ethics in East Asia”
· REL 251 (ASST 251): “Zen Buddhism: History and Historiography”
· REL 257: “Gods and Demons in East Asian Religion”
· REL 259 (HIST 214): “Japanese Religions and the State”
· REL 271 (ASST 271/COMP 279/WGSS 279): “Erotic, Grotesque, Sublime: Ghosts & Monsters in East Asia”
· REL 290T: “Explorations of the Afterlife”
· REL 300: “Dialectics and the Archaeology of Knowledge”
· REL 301 (COMP 301): “Word Virus: Cultural Studies after the Linguistic Turn”
· REL 317 : “Disenchantment, Modernity, and the Death of God”
· REL 327 (COMP 327): “Theory After Postmodernism: New Materialisms and Realisms”
· REL 337 (ASST 337, COMP 337): “Zen & Philosophy: The Kyoto School & Its Legacy”
· REL 350 (SOC 350, COMP 349): “Max Weber & Critical Theory or Rationalization & Its Discontents”
· REL 401: “Senior Seminar: Genealogies of Religion”
· REL 402: “Senior Seminar: Cognitive Theories of Religion”
· East Asia: Japanese Religions, Japanese Philosophy, Japanese History (1600-present), East Asian Buddhism.
· Theory: Theories of Religion, Continental Philosophy, Critical Theory, Science Studies, Structuralism and Post-Structuralisms, Cognitive Anthropology, Linguistics.
· European Intellectual History (1600-present): History of the Human Sciences (Geisteswissenschaften) (including Religious Studies), History of Philosophy, History of Western Esotericism (Spiritualism, Theosophy, magic, etc).
· History of Science (Asia and Europe) (1600-present)
Jason Ananda Josephson received his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Stanford University in 2006 and has held visiting positions at Princeton University, École Française d’Extrême-Orient, Paris and Ruhr Universität, Germany. He has three primary research foci: Japanese Religions, European intellectual history, and Theory more broadly. The common thread to his research is an attempt to decenter received narratives in the study of religion and science. His main targets have been epistemological obstacles, the preconceived universals which serve as the foundations of various discourses. Josephson has also been working to articulate new research models for Religious Studies in the wake of the collapse of poststructuralism as a guiding ethos in the Humanities.
Japanese Religions: Josephson’s scholarship initially concentrated on Japan in the Edo-Meiji Era (1600-1912), treating it as a central node in a series of semi-overlapping transnational networks. Drawing largely on sources written in Japanese, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Dutch, he has worked on the importation of the Euro-American concepts of “religion,” “science,” and “secularism” into Japan and traced the sweeping changes—intellectual, legal, and cultural—that followed.
This line of research culminated in his award-winning book, The Invention of Religion in Japan (University of Chicago Press, 2012), the first study in any European language to reveal how Japanese officials, under extreme international pressure, came to terms with the Western concept of religion by “discovering” religion in Japan and formulating policies to guarantee its freedom.
A secondary area of research is European intellectual history (esp. English, French, German) from 1600 to the present with particular attention to the cultural context of the formation of the Human Sciences and the construction of “religion” as an object of humanistic inquiry. This research has resulted in The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences (forthcoming 2017, University of Chicago Press) which challenges the most widely held account of modernity and its rupture from the pre-modern past. It shows how the thesis that magic was a necessary victim of modernity (what Weber called “The Disenchantment of the World,” Die Entzauberung der Welt ) was ironically articulated in the shared terrain between spiritualists, sorcerers, and scholars during the very period in which Britain, France, and Germany were in the midst of occult revivals (click to read more about this project in a guest blog-post for Cosmologics Magazine).
Theory: Josephson also has an abiding passion for Continental Philosophy and theory more generally. In graduate school, he was trained in Francophone poststructuralism (with a special attention to the work of Michel Foucault) and Chinese/Japanese philosophy (especially the phenomenology of the Kyoto School). But he has more recently been working on the legacy of the Hegelian dialectical tradition, especially as articulated by Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin. Josephson juxtaposes these philosophical movements with contemporary insights from the fields of linguistics, conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte), and cognitive anthropology. In this research he has been focusing on issues relevant to epistemology, virtue ethics, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of science.
He is currently completing two book length manuscripts:
When Buddhism Became a Religion treats simultaneously the impact of the European encounter with Buddhism on the formation of Religious Studies as a discipline and the role of the Japanese Buddhist encounter with the category “religion” on the formation of Japanese “Buddhism.” A portion of this has already been published as “When Buddhism Became a “Religion”: Religion and Superstition in the Writings of Inoue Enryō.” Second, Absolute Disruption: The Future of Theory after Postmodernism attempts to extend the insights of the Hegelian tradition (particularly as articulated by the Frankfurt School) to one of the central impasses of the discipline of Religious Studies—the disintegration of its central term “religion.” It articulates new methods for the social sciences by simultaneously radicalizing and moving past the postmodern turn. More info about this project can be found in his blog: Absolute Disruption.
The Invention of Religion in Japan. Monograph. University of Chicago Press, 2012.
Winner: Society for the Scientific Study of Religion- Distinguished Book of the Year Award- 2013
Finalist: American Academy of Religion– Best First Book in the History of Religions
Link to Review Quotes
- The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences (Monograph, University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2017).
- “L’invention des religions japonaises : Les limites de l’orientalisme et de l’universalisme”Asdiwal: revue genevoise d’anthropologie et d’histoire des religions, 2015. 10, 77-96.
- “Specters of Reason: Kantian Things and the Fragile Terrors of Philosophy” J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, Vol. 3, No.1 (2015), pp. 204-211.
- “The Politics of Buddhist Studies in Early Twentieth-Century Japan” Japanese Religions, Vol.29, No. 1&2 (2014), pp. 1-9.
- “The Invention of Religions in East Asia” in Turner and Salemink edts., The Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia, Routledge, 2014.
- “God’s Shadow: Occluded Possibilities in the Genealogy of ‘Religion’” History of Religions, Vol. 52, No. 4 (May 2013), pp. 309–339.
- “The Empowered World: Buddhist Medicine and the Potency of Prayer in Japan” in Stolow, edt. Deus in Machina: Religion, Technology, and the Things in Between. Fordham University Press, 2012.
- “The Invention of Japanese Religions,” Religion Compass, 2011. 5, 589–597.
- “Evil Cults, Monstrous Gods, and the Labyrinth of Delusion: Defining Heresy in Meiji Japan” Bochumer Jahrbuch zur Ostasienforschung. 2009. 33, 39–59.
- “アメリカにおける近代日本仏教史研究,” 日本思想史, 2009. 75, 145-166.
- “When Buddhism Became a “Religion”: Religion and Superstition in the Writings of Inoue Enryō.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. 2006, 33/1, 143–68.
- Columbia University 2010: “Heretical Anthropology: The Imagined Buddhisms of Early Modern Japan”