Lori Meeks

Associate Professor of Religion and East Asian Languages and Cultures

Contact Information
E-mail: meeks@email.usc.edu
Phone: (323) 719-0984
Office: ACB 234



  • B.A. Religion, Columbia University, 1998
  • Ph.D. East Asian Religions, Princeton University, 2003

  • Academic Appointment, Affiliation, and Employment History

    • Postdoctoral Fellow, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science , 2006-2007   
    • Stanford Institute for International Studies, Stanford University, 2003-2004   

    Description of Research

    Summary Statement of Research Interests
    I am interested in the social, cultural, and intellectual histories of Japanese Buddhism. Much of my work has focused, in particular, on clarifying the roles of women as consumers and practitioners of Buddhism in the Heian and Kamakura periods (roughly ninth through early fourteenth centuries). My research has also attempted to shed light on the ways in which gender is handled in Buddhist texts, on the roles that Buddhist texts played in the dissemination of gendered ideology, and on popular responses to doctrinal discussions of sex and gender. Other interests include the social history of monasticism and the role of the arts in Buddhist practice.
    Research Specialties
    Women, Gender, and Religion; Religious and Social History of Japan; Women’s History in East Asia; Buddhist Literature and Philosophy; Buddhist Monasticism; Japanese Literature and Culture

    Funded Research

    USC Funding
    • Advancing Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Gender, Buddhism, and Popular Culture in Late Medieval and Early Modern Japan: This work seeks to identify the social and historical processes by which certain aspects of Buddhist doctrine related to gender were transmitted to and popularized among ordinary people in Japan. , $25,000, 07/2008-07/2009  


    • Meeks, L. R. (2010). Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monastic Orders in Premodern Japan / / Reviews: Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 37/2 (2010), Religious Studies Review 36/4 (2010), American Historical Review 116.2 (2011), Monumenta Nipponica 66.1 (2011), The Journal of Asian Studies 70.3 (2011), Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 54 (2011) //. Honolulu, HI: Kuroda Institute Studies in East Asian Buddhism (University of Hawai'i Press). Winner of the 2012 John Whitney Hall Prize
    • James Benn, James Robson, and Lori Meeks (Ed.). (2009). Buddhist Monasticism in East Asia: Places of Practice. London: Routledge. Routledge Link

    Book Chapter
    • Meeks, L. R. (2015). "Survival and Salvation in the Tale of the Heike: Reassessing the Legacy of Kenreimon’in". Loveable Losers: The Taira in Action and Memory University of Hawaii Press.
    • Meeks, L. R. (2014). "Nuns and Laywomen in East Asia". Blackwell Companion to East & Inner Asian Buddhism pp. 318-339. Wiley Blackwell.
    • Meeks, L. R. (2013). The Priesthood as a Family Trade: Reconsidering Monastic Marriage in Premodern Japan. Family in Buddhism Albany, NY: SUNY Press. SUNY
    • Meeks, L. R. (2010). "Amadera ni okeru seikatsu o saiko suru: Girei, shinko, shakai seikatsu no ba toshite no chusei no Hokkeji" (Reconsidering life in the nunnery: Ritual, devotion, and social life at medieval Hokkeji), trans. Tomoko Kitagawa, in Lucia Dolce and Matsumoto Ikuyo, eds., Girei no chikara (The power of ritual). pp. 207-228. Kyoto: Hozokan. on Amazon Japan
    • Meeks, L. R. (2009). "Chuguji Imperial Convent" (with Monica Bethe) and "Hokkeji Imperial Convent," with Japanese trans. by the Center for Intercultural Communication. pp. 40-53. (Tokyo: Sankei Shinbunsha, 2009): Amamonzeki--A Hidden Heritage: Treasures of the Japanese Imperial Convents (exhibition catalogue). This book was recently mentioned in The New York Times.
    • Meeks, L. R. (2008). "Chuguji and Female Monasticism in the Age of Shotoku," in Dorothy Wong, ed., Horyuji Reconsidered. pp. 237-262. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

    Journal Article
    • Meeks, L. R. (2011). "The Disappearing Medium: Reassessing the Place of Miko in the Religious Landscape of Premodern Japan". History of Religions (University of Chicago Press). Vol. 51 (1), pp. 208-260. Japanese Version available here
    • Meeks, L. R. (2010). "Buddhist Renunciation and the Female Life Cycle: Understanding Nunhood in Heian and Kamakura Japan". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Vol. 70.1 (June 2010), pp. 1-59. Available through Project Muse
    • Meeks, L. R. (2009). "Vows for the Masses: Eison and the Popular Expansion of Precept-Conferral Ceremonies in Premodern Japan". Numen. Vol. 56 (1 (Jan. 2009)), pp. 1-43. Link to Numen
    • Meeks, L. R. (2007). "In Her Likeness: Female Divinity and Leadership at Medieval Chuguji". Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. Vol. 34 (34/2), pp. 351-392.. Link to PDF
    • Meeks, L. R. (2007). "Amerika ni okeru Nihon Bukkyogaku no shomondai: Bukkyo to wa nanika" ("What Counts as ‘Buddhism’?: Problems in the Study of Japanese Buddhism in the United States") (in Japanese). Higashi Ajia hikaku bunka kenkyu (Journal of the International Association for Comparative Studies of East Asian Culture)/Kasamashoin. Vol. Vol. 6 (June 2007), pp. pp. 29-39.
    • Meeks, L. R. (2006). "Reconfiguring Ritual Authenticity: The Ordination Traditions of Aristocratic Women in Premodern Japan". Japanese Journal of Religious Studies/Nanzan University. Vol. 33/1, pp. 51-74. Link to PDF

    • Meeks, L. R. (2012). Bibliographies for Oxford Bibliography Online (Buddhism Section): "Monasticism, East Asian"; "Feminism, Buddhism in"; and "Japan, Buddhism in.". Oxford Bibliographies Online. Link to OBO

    • Meeks, L. R. (2009). "Comments on Panel No. 1, ‘Religion and Gender,’" a formal response to papers by Katsuura Noriko, Ushiyama Yoshiyuki, and Takagi Tadashi, presented at the Harvard Conference "Beyond Buddhology," with Japanese trans. by Ryuichi Abé. pp. 26-36. Kyoto. Yoshiko Oka, ed., Amadera monjo chosa no seika o kiban toshita Nihon no josei to Bukkyo no sogo kenkyu II, published by Kyowa Insatsu.
    • Meeks, L. R. (2007). "Images of Women and Nuns in Chinkai's _Bodaishinshu_" (in Japanese). 113 (56.1). pp. 20-23. Tokyo. Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies. Link to PDF (in Japanese--click CiNii PDF box in upper right-hand corner)
    • Meeks, L. R., Nishiguchi, J. (2006). "Bukkyo dento no sabetsu teki na joseikan o saketa chusei Shingon Ritsu-shu no bikuni o megutte". pp. p. 19-21. Kyowa Insatsu, Kyoto, Japan. Amadera monjo chosa no seika o kiban toshita Nihon no josei to bukkyo no sogo kenkyu/Yoshiko Oka (Otemae Daigaku), ed..


    Other Advisement or Time Devoted to Students
    • Director of Undergraduate Studies, Religion, 2011-2013  

    New Courses Developed

    • LBST 505: East Asian Humanities, Master of Liberal Studies Program, 2012-2013   
    • Japanese Religions, Religion, REL 332, 2009-2010   
    • Religion and Politics in East Asia, Religion, EALC, and IR (RIGG), First offered through the RIGG (Religion, Identity, and Global Governance) program in the spring of 2010., 2009-2010   
    • Introduction to Buddhist Literature, REL 134 (Spring 2008), This course takes as its primary focus works of Buddhist literature written in a variety of genres—sutras, sermons, debates, hagiography, autobiography, poetry, miracle tales, and fiction. The readings and lectures introduce the basic teachings and concerns that link Buddhist traditions across time and space, while, at the same time, emphasizing the diverse ways in which different cultures and societies have responded to, interpreted, and contributed to Buddhist ideas and practices., 2007-2008   
    • Readings in Japanese Buddhist Texts, REL 599, This course aims to introduce students to the major genres of premodern Japanese Buddhist literature. We will read doctrinal works (sutras, commentaries, and treatises); popular and oral Buddhist literature (sermons, engi, and setsuwa); and prayers (ganmon) written by devotees. This survey-style approach will familiarize students with the textual range of Buddhist discourse in premodern Japan. The course also seeks to equip students with the following: (1) bibliographic skills necessary for work with Buddhist texts; (2) mastery of fundamental Buddhist terms, concepts, and debates; and (3) greater proficiency in the reading of classical Japanese texts. (Advanced language skills required.), 2007-2008   
    • Women's Lives in Premodern Japanese Literature, EALC 427, 2007-2008   
    • Women and Gender in Japanese Religions, REL 499, Spring 2006   
    • Ethics and Morality in Buddhist Literature, ARLT 100g, Fall 2005   

    Honors and Awards

    • Mellon Graduate Mentoring Award, 2015-2016   
    • USC EMSI (Early Modern Studies Institute) Faculty Fellowship, Fall 2013   
    • John Whitney Hall Book Prize (2012), 2011-2012   
    • American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship Recipient, "How Buddhist Views of the Female Body Entered Popular Discourse: Tracing Ideological Change in Late Medieval and Early Modern Japan", Spring 2011   
    • USC or School/Dept Award for Teaching, GE Teaching Award, 2005-2006  

    Service to the University

    Administrative Appointments
    • Co-Director, USC Center for Japanese Religions and Culture, 2012-  
    • Director/Chair, USC School of Religion, 2014-2017  
    • Director, 08/16/2014-08/15/2017  
    • Director of Undergraduate Studies, Religion, 2011-2013  

    • Member, General Education Review Committee, 2013-2014   

    Other Service to the University
    • Co-Director (with Duncan Williams), USC Center for Japanese Religions and Culture (CJRC): http://dornsife.usc.edu/cjrc/staff/, 2011-2014  
    • Advisory Board, Interdisciplinary Research Group (previously known as the Academic Advisory Council), Center for Religion and Civic Culture, 2009-2013  
    • "What Matters to Me and Why," USC Office of Religious Life, Ground Zero Coffeehouse, February 3, 2010., 2011-2012   
    • Co-Organizer, with Lisa Bitel, CRCC Interdisciplinary Research Group Annual Seminar, "Gender, Sex, Religion, and Politics: Why the Past Matters Today" See http://crcc.usc.edu/initiatives/irg/seminar.html, 03/2010-05/2011  
    • Organizer, 2010 USC College Kambun Workshop: http://college.usc.edu/news/stories/808/usc-college-kambun-workshop-draws-grad-students-nationwide/, 2009-2010   

    Service to the Profession

    Editorships and Editorial Boards
    • Editorial Board Member, Buddhist Studies Review, 2014-  
    • Editorial Board Member, Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism Series, 2014-  
    • Editorial Advisor, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (JJRS), 2013-  
    • Member, Editorial Advisory Board, Journal of Japanese Studies (JJS), 2013-  
    • Section Editor, Japanese Religious Traditions Section: http://religion-compass.com/sections/east-asian-traditions/, Religion Compass, 2013-  
    • Member, Editorial Board, Buddhism Section, Oxford Bibliographies Online, 2009-  

    Professional Offices
    • Co-Chair, Buddhism Section, American Academy of Religion (AAR), 2011-  
    • President, Society for the Study of Japanese Religions (SSJR), 2011-2014  

    Professional Memberships
    • European Association of Japanese Studies (EAJS), 06/2008-  
    • Society for the Interdisciplinary Study of Japanese Buddhism, 2007-  
    • Japanese Association for Indian and Buddhist Studies, 2006-  
    • Center for the Study of Women, Buddhism, and Cultural History (Kyoto, Japan), 2005-  
    • International Association for Buddhist Studies (IABS), 2004-  
    • American Academy of Religion (AAR), 2002-  
    • Society for the Study of Japanese Religions (SSJR), 2002-  
    • Association for Asian Studies (AAS), 1999-  

  • Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway, Taper Hall 356
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-0357

  • All photos taken by Elissa L., Yulee Kim and Ka Wong