On April 11th, the 21st Century Japan Politics and Society Initiative (21JPSI) had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Jolyon Thomas in its “Japan Politics & Society” Speaker Series for two days of engagement with students and faculty across the IU Bloomington campus. Dr. Thomas is an assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and his research lies at the nexus of religion, politics, education, and popular culture.
The public component of Dr. Thomas’ visit was a lecture and Q&A based off his new book, Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan (University of Chicago Press, 2019). 38 members of the IU and Bloomington community turned out to hear Dr. Thomas speak about “Contemporary Legacies of Religious Freedom in U.S.-Occupied Japan.” His talk and Q&A covered issues ranging from fundamental questions about the meaning of “religion” and “freedom” to the history of “religious freedom” in Japan under the Meiji and postwar Constitutions, as well as contemporary debates about constitutional revision and education policy in Japan today. Despite a sometimes fractious and heavily politicized debate, Dr. Thomas powerfully observed that “religious freedom is not something that nations have or lack . . . disagreements about how to define religion brings religious freedom into being.”
21JPSI Director Adam Liff and IU Religious Studies (and Japan expert) Professor Heather Blair also collaborated to organize a lunch workshop with the Religious Studies department featuring Dr. Thomas and his research and entitled “Making Morality: Moral Education in Japanese Public Schools & Society, Postwar and Present.” This workshop was cosponsored by the Department of Religious Studies and the IU Center for Religion and the Human. 22 faculty and graduate students (and one freshman!) from Religious Studies, International Studies and EALC attended the 90-minute session. During his visit, Dr. Thomas also met with several members of the Religious Studies Department faculty to discuss his current project and various future collaboration possibilities.
The “Japan Politics & Society” Speaker Series will be on hiatus during the summer break and will resume activities in September 2019! Please sign up for our mailing list (info below) to receive event announcements.
*The 21st Century Japan Politics and Society Initiative (21JPSI) was launched at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies in 2018. Under the leadership of Founding Director (and HLS) faculty member Adam Liff, 21JPSI aims to invigorate and expand research, teaching, and programming on contemporary Japanese politics, society, and international (esp. U.S.-Japan) relations, and to educate, raise awareness, and debate policy responses to the various political, social, and foreign policy challenges that Japan faces in this extremely dynamic era of 21st-century change. Supported by a generous $900,000 grant from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, in its first five years 21JPSI will enable a new tenure-track faculty search in summer/fall 2019; two new courses on contemporary Japan; a speaker series on Japanese Politics and Society; biennial conferences on U.S.-Japan relations; graduate research fellowships, and faculty travel grants. For more information, please see https://jpsi.indiana.edu/ or write to firstname.lastname@example.org