Josephson's "The Invention of Religion in Japan" Wins Book Award

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., November 26, 2013—Jason Ananda Josephson, chair and associate professor of the Religion Department at Williams College, has received the 2013 Distinguished Book of the Year Award by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion for his book The Invention of Religion in Japan (University of Chicago Press, 2012). The prize is awarded annually to the most outstanding book published in the field within the past two years.

Throughout most of its history, Japan had no concept of what would be called “religion”—no corresponding word in Japanese nor anything close to its meaning.  When American warships appeared in the country in 1853, the treaties the Japanese government was forced to sign included a provision for freedom of religion. Thus, Japan had to grapple with this Western idea. Josephson’s book—his first—describes how Japanese officials invented “religion” and examines the intellectual, legal, and cultural changes that ensued.

“The prize is especially important to me because while I was writing The Invention of Religion in Japan, it was with the aims of making larger theoretical interventions in religious studies and science studies,” Josephson said. “Many thanks are due to my wonderful friends and colleagues whose suggestions and critical comments helped make it a better work.”

Josephson’s research areas include Japanese religions, philosophy, and history; theories of religion; continental philosophy; the history of the European and American study of religion; and the history of science in both the East and West. He is currently working on three book-length manuscripts: Dialectic of Darkness: the Occult Origins of Modernity, When Buddhism Became a Religion, and Absolute Disruption: The Disintegration of Religion and the Future of Theory after Postmodernism.

A member of the Williams faculty since 2007, Josephson received his M.T.S. from Harvard University in 2001 and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2006.


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