East Asia by the Book! CEAS Author Talks: Levi Mclaughlin - "Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution" - Andrew Kunze

Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - 5:00pm - 6:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Levi Mclaughlin

East Asia by the Book! CEAS Author Talks featuring Levi Mclaughlin on Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution: The Rise of a Mimetic Nation. He will be joined in conversation by Andrew Kunze. A Q&A and signing will follow the discussion.

Presented in partnership with Center for East Asian Studies, University of Chicago

At the Co-op

RSVP HERE (Please note that your RSVP is requested but not required.)

About the book: Soka Gakkai is Japan’s largest and most influential new religious organization. It claims more than 8 million Japanese households and close to 2 million members in 192 countries and territories. The religion is best known for its affiliated political party, Komeito (the Clean Government Party), which comprises part of the ruling coalition in Japan’s National Diet, and it exerts considerable influence in education, media, finance, and other key areas.

Levi McLaughlin’s comprehensive account of Soka Gakkai draws on nearly two decades of archival research and non-member fieldwork to account for its institutional development beyond Buddhism and suggest how we should understand the activities and dispositions of its adherents. McLaughlin explores the group’s Nichiren Buddhist origins and turns to insights from religion, political science, anthropology, and cultural studies to characterize Soka Gakkai as mimetic of the nation-state. Ethnographic vignettes combine with historical evidence to demonstrate ways Soka Gakkai’s twin Buddhist and modern humanist legacies inform the organization’s mimesis of the modern Japan in which the group took shape.  

About the author: Levi McLaughlin is Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at North Carolina State University. He is spending 2019-2020 as the Toyota Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan. His work deals primarily with religion and politics in contemporary Japan. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University after previous study at the University of Tokyo, and he holds a B.A. and M.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto. He is co-author and co-editor of Kōmeitō: Politics and Religion in Japan (IEAS Berkeley, 2014), co-editor of the special issue “Salvage and Salvation: Religion and Disaster Relief in Asia” (Asian Ethnology, June 2016), and author of numerous articles and book chapters in English and Japanese. His book Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution: The Rise of a Mimetic Nation was published in 2018 from the University of Hawai`i Press.

About the interlocutor: Andrew Kunze is a PhD candidate in Anthropology & Sociology of Religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School. He studies Swaminarayan Hinduism and the role of mass media (magazines, websites, social media) as the devotional movement grows outside of India, especially in the North American context. Andrew has broad interests in the anthropology of religion, media and globalization, which he explores in practices of devotional publicity and the formation of transnational religious community.

About the co-sponsor: The Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) and its three Committees - the Committee on Japanese Studies, the Committee on Chinese Studies, and the Committee on Korean Studies - work to enhance opportunities available to scholars both in the United States and abroad, and to foster communication and inter-disciplinary collaboration among the community of professors and students at the University of Chicago and throughout the wider East Asian Studies community.

Event Location: 
The Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago 60637