Department of Religious Studies

RS PhD Candidate Receives Fulbright-Hays Research Fellowship

Wed, October 7, 2015
RS PhD Candidate Receives Fulbright-Hays Research Fellowship
PhD Candidate Benjamin Cox reads with child

The Religious Studies department is pleased to announce that PhD Candidate Benjamin Cox has been awarded a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Fellowship for his dissertation project, "Gods Without Faces: Acquisition of God Concepts Among Japanese Pre- and Early Elementary Schoolchildren."

Designed to investigate the intergenerational transmission of religious ideas in contemporary Japan, Cox's research seeks to uncover the ways in which Japanese children are exposed to and adopt concepts of the culturally-postulated residents of the supernatural realm, and how they formulate the intellectual and affective stances towards these beings that they will then carry into adulthood. "If you ask a Japanese person how or when they learned about the kami or Buddhas," Cox explains, "they will probably tell you it just happened 'naturally' -- I want to open up the black box of tacit transmission of ideas to see how the Japanese come to populate the universe with supernatural actors."

Cox with Child

Cox's project is methodologically diverse, combining a core of ethnographic participant observation with textual analysis of children's literature, quantitative cognitive domain analysis, and experimental paradigms based in developmental psychology. "If I want to create a complete picture of what's going on, I have to use all the tools in the Religious Studies toolkit--textual, anthropological, and psychological," Cox writes from his field site in Iwate province in Northeastern Japan. In addition to being a member of the UT department of Religious Studies, Cox is affiliated with UT's Cognition, Culture, and Development Lab headed by Cristine Legare, and holds the position of Visiting Research Fellow from Waseda University, Tokyo.

Cox Leaning

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