Jason Ānanda Josephson
Assistant Professor of Religion
Office: Hollander Hall, Rm 302
Phone: (413) 597-2339
M.T.S., Harvard University 2001
Ph.D., Stanford University 2006
Program Connections: Asian Studies
· REL 103: “The Way of Power: A History of Occult Knowledge and Practices” with Denise Buell.
· REL 209: “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 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 327 (COMP 327): “Theory After Postmodernism: New Materialisms and Realisms” (Spring 2014)
· REL 401: “Senior Seminar: Genealogies of Religion”
· REL 402: “Senior Seminar: Cognitive Theories of Religion”
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. His research explores the contested borderland between “religion” and “science.” In so doing, he hopes to discover counter narratives and uncover occluded genealogies in the construction of modernity both in Japan and Europe. Put differently, he attempts to trace the means through which certain cultural systems become “sciences” or “religions” on a global stage.
Josephson’s scholarship has concentrated dominantly on Japan of the Edo-Meiji Era (1600-1912). 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” and “science” into Japan and the attendant transformation of the Japanese indigenous intellectual and cultural landscape.
A secondary area of specialty is the history of the study of religion in Western Europe from the 18th century to the present. Methodologically, Josephson draws from traditional historical research models, as well as Francophone cultural theory, the Hegelian dialectical tradition, linguistics, and cognitive science.
His manuscript, The Invention of Religion in Japan (University of Chicago Press, 2012), is 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. Using a wide range of historical materials, this book traces the sweeping changes—intellectual, legal, and cultural—brought about by the incorporation of this category of “religion” into mid-nineteenth century Japan.
Josephson’s other scholarship has included papers and talks addressing the history of religious studies as a discipline, spiritualism in the French Enlightenment, Buddhism and medicine in Early Modern Japan, Shinto astronomy, Hegel’s reception by 19th century Japanese Buddhists, the history of Japanese psychical research, competing philosophical and anthropological conceptions of alterity, and the potential impact of cognitive anthropology on the discipline of religious studies.
He is currently working on 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 impact of the Japanese Buddhist encounter with the category “religion” on the formation of Japanese Buddhism. The second project Absolute Disruption: The Disintegration of the Object and the Future of Religious Studies 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 works out a new theory/method for the study of religion by simultaneously radicalizing and moving past the postmodern turn. More info about this project can be found in his blog: Absolute Disruption.
· East Asia: Japanese Religions, Japanese History (1600-1912), East Asian Buddhism.
· The History of the European and American study of “Religion” culminating in the formation of Religious Studies as a discipline (1600-present).
· Theory: Theories of Religion, Critical Theory, Continental Philosophy (esp. the Dialectical Tradition), Science Studies, Structuralism and Post-Structuralisms, Linguistics.
· History of Science (East and West) (1600-present).
- The Invention of Religion in Japan. Monograph. University of Chicago Press, 2012
- “God’s Shadow: Occluded Possibilities in the Genealogy of ‘Religion’” History of Religions, Forthcoming.
- “Japanese accounts of Religion” in Schilbrack, edt. Blackwell Companion to Religious Diversity, Blackwell, Forthcoming.
- “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.
Recorded Talk: Columbia University 2010
“Heretical Anthropology: The Imagined Buddhisms of Early Modern Japan”
“Death and the Afterlife in Japanese Buddhism, edited by Jacqueline Stone and Mariko Walter.” Review Article. New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies. 12/2: 2010. 148-50.
“Death and Social Order in Tokugawa Japan: Buddhism, Anti-Christianity, and the Danka System, by Nam-lin Hur.” Review Article. History of Religions, 2009. 49/2, 206-8.
“Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition, by Judith Snodgrass.” Review Article. Journal of Buddhist Ethics 12: 2005, 80-3.