Organized Panel Session
Memory is central to religious discourse and practice. This is particularly evident in Japan, where concepts like karmic connection (which stresses moral ties between the living and the dead) and religious narratives that elevate the relevance of certain deaths are used to build local, regional, and national identities. Memories are given material form in memorial objects and practices. Studying these objects and practices reveals the often-contested nature of memorialization in Japan. Building on the material turn in historiography and religious studies, our panel will investigate these complex processes to show how the materials of memory enable community-building.
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 presents the function of objects in religious narratives and practices at Yakushiji temple, and how they allow the temple’s thriving by binding individual and collective memories. Paulina Kolata sheds light on problems of generational continuity and survival of local Buddhist temples through the ethnographic study of ashes hall facilities, suggesting the temple’s role as “storehouse of waste.”