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In Session: Japan as a Site for Discourses on Religion and Modernity
3: Towards a “Modern Manchu-Mongolian Buddhism”: Religious Spatializations Within the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
Friday, March 26, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
University of California, Santa Barbara, United States
With the establishment of Manchukuo in Manchuria (1934) and Mengjiang (Mongol United Autonomous Government) in Inner Mongolia (1939) and their incorporations into the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere under the influence of the Empire of Japan, Japanese pan-Asianism became a dominant imperialist ideology in these two regions of the post-Qing landscape. Religion, specifically Tibetan Buddhism (often referred to as “manmō bukkyō” or “Manchu-Mongolian Buddhism” in Japanese sources), was a key location for the practice of this imperialist ideology of pan-Asianism, which promoted a kind of pan-Asian solidarity based on Japanese supremacy against the hegemony of Western imperialism. This paper investigates first, how the Buddhist landscape of Manchuria and Inner Mongolia were imagined and spatialized in the pan-Asianism of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, specifically in relation to the Empire of Japan and Japanese esoteric Buddhism. Second, the paper examines what efforts were made to transform “manmō bukkyō,” or Manchu-Mongolian Buddhism into “modernized” religious institutions according to Japanese standards, particularly through (re)definition and regulations of monasticism, modernized education and exchange programs, and programs focused on bodily hygiene derived from eugenic practices. This paper aims to add to current conversations on Japanese pan-Asianism by providing a perspective focusing on religious spatializing. The paper also intends to decenter discussions on pan-Asianist movements from Japan by pointing out other spatializing imaginations operating within the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, such as Buddhist landscapes centered in Tibet, and the pan-Mongolian movements headquartered in Inner Mongolia.