Session Abstract: Recent protests against monuments in the United States and globally have shown the importance of studying memorialization and its material translation as contested processes that reveal the complexity of identity and community building. This is even more true when memory becomes the subject of religious discourses and practices centered on objects. Our panel will build on the recent material turn in religious studies and historiography to analyze cases of often-contested memorialization in contemporary Japan.
The presentations will combine different methodological approaches to raise discussion on what objects can say about religious discourses and practices of memory in Japan, in connection with issues such as natural disasters, war, demographic ageing, and generational change. Alex Jania investigates the controversies around the style of the memorial for the Great Kanto Earthquake, which make visible the contested nature of Japanese identity in interwar cultural politics. Yuki Miyamoto analyzes the construction of a form of civil religion in Hiroshima based on the sacralization of objects that recall the atomic bombing. Paride Stortini uses critical heritage theory to present the function of objects in religious narratives and rituals that construct ideas of collective memory and community at Yakushiji temple, Nara. Paulina Kolata sheds light on problems of generational continuity and survival of local Buddhist temples through the ethnographic study of biographies of human ashes, suggesting the temple’s role as “storehouse of waste.”
Paper Presenter: Alexander Jania – University of Chicago
Paper Presenter: Yuki Miyamoto – DePaul University
Paper Presenter: Paride Stortini – The University of Chicago
Paper Presenter: Paulina Kolata – The University of Manchester