Department of Religious Studies

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Nancy Stalker

Mon, April 4, 2005

What are your research interests?
My area of specialty is Modern Japan and I'm particularly interested in religious and cultural movements in the 20th century and their relationship to issues of national identity. In terms of religion, I focus more on new religious movements (NRMs) rather than on the established Buddhist traditions. The new religions are the most vibrant aspect of religious life in Japan today. It is estimated that 10% of the Japanese population belong to a new religion.

What are you currently working on?
I'm currently finishing up the manuscript for my first book, entitled Prophet Motive: Deguchi Onisaburo and the Rise of Oomoto in Imperial Japan. It's about the most rapidly growing new religion in Japan in the 1920s and early 1930s, a Shintoist sect. It'll be published by the University of Hawaii press. I'm also working on some articles - one is on the Japanese response to U.S. immigration prohibition in 1924 and another is on the "Dancing Religion" (Tensho Kotai Jingukyo), and its boom in popularity in postwar Japan. Finally, I'm beginning research on my next book-length project, which will be on Ikebana (flower arranging) in modern Japan.

Why is Asian Studies, and Japanese studies, specifically, of interest to a student of Religious Studies?
Asian studies and Japanese studies provide an interesting comparative case for Religious Studies students. Most students approach the discipline from a perspective that focuses on monotheistic traditions, i.e. Christianity, Judaism or Islam. Many Asian religions, both popular and established, however, are non-monotheistic or even atheistic yet they share many of the characteristics of monotheistic faiths such as sacred texts, charismatic founders, community ritual, pilgrimage, notions of an afterlife, sacred space and many, many more.

What attracted you to UT?
UT and the Asian Studies department provide great support for my research and teaching interests. Japan Studies here has a generous grant from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries that allow faculty to travel to Japan every year for research or conferences. Plus, Austin is a great place to live!

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