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Title: Japan's Preoccupation with Religious Freedom
Authors: Thomas, Jolyon Baraka
Advisors: Stone, Jacqueline I.
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Buddhism
military occupation
religious freedom
United States
Subjects: Religion
Asian history
Asian studies
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation argues that religious freedom first became understood as a universal "human right" under the unique transnational circumstances of the Allied Occupation of Japan (1945-1952). This conception was not new in that it was a previously existing "principle" that was imported to Japan by the American occupiers. Rather, it was freshly constructed during the Occupation as the occupiers collaborated with local expert informants in applying wartime propaganda rhetoric about freedom, religion, and civilization to the specific problems of local religious administration and the promotion of democratic practices. This new understanding of religious freedom as a human right was subsequently retrojected onto Japan's prewar constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, resulting in two problematic but influential historiographic narratives. On the one hand, the occupiers and many postwar scholars argued that prewar and wartime Japan totally lacked genuine religious freedom. On the other hand, more apologetically inclined scholars have since argued that such assessments failed to recognize a unique "Japanese-style relationship between religion and the state." The dissertation charts a middle course between these arguments. It examines the implementation of the concept of religious freedom in Japan during the time that the Meiji Constitution was in effect (1890-1947), mobilizing a variety of primary sources to show that competing interest groups (religious leaders, legislators, scholars, and bureaucrats) advocated diverse interpretations of religious freedom throughout the period. While all of these groups aimed to protect religious freedom as they understood it, there were significant differences between those groups that saw religious freedom as a circumstantially granted privilege, those that saw it as a customary right, and those who viewed it as a civil liberty. Shifting academic, ecclesiastical, and administrative definitions of religion, superstition, and the secular affected such interpretations, with occasionally devastating results for marginal religions and lasting repercussions for postwar scholarly understandings of Buddhism, Shintō, and "new religions." Two closing chapters examine American military government records and Occupation-era Japanese publications, tracing continuities in religious administration policies across the wartime and postwar periods while simultaneously highlighting the conceptual rupture presented by the new interpretation of religious freedom as a universal human right.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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