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Duncan Williams

Associate Professor of Religion
Director

Contact Information
E-mail: duncanwi@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-0272
Office: ACB 231

 

Biographical Sketch

Duncan Ryûken Williams was born in Tokyo, Japan to a Japanese mother and British father. After growing up in Japan and England until age 17, he moved to the U.S. to attend college (Reed College) and graduate school (Harvard University, where he received a Ph.D. in Religion). Williams is currently the Chair of the University of Southern California’s School of Religion and the Co-Director of the USC Center for Japanese Religions and Culture. Previously, he held the Shinjo Ito Distinguished Chair of Japanese Buddhism at University of California at Berkeley and served as the Director of Berkeley's Center for Japanese Studies for four years. He has also been ordained since 1993 as a Buddhist priest in the Sôtô Zen tradition and served as the Buddhist chaplain at Harvard University from 1994-96. He is the author of a monograph entitled The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Sôtô Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan (Princeton University Press, 2005) and co-editor of five volumes including Issei Buddhism in the Americas (U-Illinois Press, 2010), American Buddhism (Routledge/Curzon Press, 1998), and Buddhism and Ecology (Harvard University Press, 1997). He has also translated four books from Japanese into English including Putting Buddhism to Work: A New Theory of Economics and Business Management (Kodansha, 1997). He is also the founder of the world's first online Western-language bibliographical database on Buddhism, the Mugen Project (www.mugenproject.com) and a database on mixed-race/ethnicity Japanese people (www.hapajapan.com). He is currently completing a monograph titled, Camp Dharma: Buddhism and the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II (forthcoming, University of California Press), a monograph titled Hot Water Buddha on Buddhist healing/purification and the history of bathing in Japan, and writing a manifesto for Japan in the 21st-century titled Hybrid Japan (in Japanese). He has previously received research grants from the American Academy of Religion, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, the Japan Foundation, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Numata Foundation/Society for the Promotion of Buddhism. In 2011, Williams received a commendation from the Japanese government for deepening the mutual understanding between the peoples of Japan and California.
 

Education

Ph.D. Religion (Japanese Religions), Harvard University, 2000
M.Div. Buddhist Studies, Harvard Divinity School, 1993
B.A. Religious Studies, Reed College, 1991
 

Academic Appointment, Affiliation, and Employment History

Shinjo Ito Distinguished Chair in Japanese Buddhism, University of California, Berkeley, 08/16/2009-05/15/2011  
Center for Japanese Studies Director, University of California, Berkeley, 08/16/2007-05/15/2011  
Associate Professor of Japanese Buddhism, University of California, Berkeley, 08/16/2006-05/15/2011  
Associate Professor of East Asian Buddhism and Culture, University of California, Irvine, 2005-2006   
Assistant Professor of East Asian Buddhism and Culture, University of California, Irvine, 08/16/2002-05/15/2005  
 

Description of Research

Summary Statement of Research Interests

Williams works on the social and cultural history of Japanese and Japanese American religions. He focuses on the early modern and modern periods of Japanese history with particular interests in Buddhism and the modernization process. He also works on Japanese religions in diaspora, especially in the Americas. His thematic research interests include Buddhism and nature/environment, Buddhism and Japanese bathing culture, American Buddhist acculturation processes, and theories of hybridity in religion and culture. He is most recently working on the role of faith in the incarceration experience of Japanese Americans during world war two and a policy book on the future of Japan.
 

Research Keywords

Buddhism, Japanese religions, American Buddhism, Buddhism and the environment, Japanese-American history and religion, Hybrid Japan, social history of religion
 

Research Specialties

Buddhism, Japanese religions, American Buddhism, Buddhism and the environment, Japanese-American history and religion, Hybrid Japan, social history of religion
 

Funded Research

Contracts and Grants Awarded

Mugen Project: Online Bibliographical Database on Buddhism (BDK/Numata Foundation), Duncan Williams, $1,000,000, 08/01/2007-  
Japanese Studies: Past, Present, and Future Conference (Japan Foundation), Duncan Williams, $15,000, 2009-2010   
Tracing Japanese Buddhism Conference (Shinnyo-en Foundation), Duncan Williams, $50,000, 2008-2009   
Tracing Japanese Buddhism Conference (BDK/Numata Foundation), Duncan Williams, $50,000, 2008-2009   
Camp Dharma: Japanese American Religion in the WW2 Camps (Mellon Foundation), Duncan Williams, $12,140, 2008-2009   
Camp Dharma: Japanese American Religion in the WW2 Camps (UC-Berkeley Committee on Research/Townsend Center), Duncan Williams, $16,410, 2007-2008   
 

Affiliations with Research Centers, Labs, and Other Institutions

East Asian Studies Center, Affiliated Faculty, http://dornsife.usc.edu/eascenter
USC Center for Japanese Religions and Culture, Director
USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, Interdisciplinary Research Group faculty member, http://crcc.usc.edu/initiatives/irg/
 

Publications

Book

Williams, D. R., Moriya, T. (2010). Issei Buddhism in the Americas. (Williams, Duncan Ryuken, Ed.). Urbana-Champaigne, IL: University of Illinois Press.
Williams, D. R., Queen, C. (1998). American Buddhism: Methods and Findings in Recent Scholarship. (Duncan Ryuken Williams and Christopher Queen, Ed.). London: Curzon/Routledge.
Williams, D. R., Tucker, M. E. (1997). Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deed. (Duncan Ryuken Williams and Mary Evelyn Tucker, Ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
 

Journal Article

Williams, D. R., Ambros, B., Murphy, R. (2009). Helen Hardacre and the Study of Japanese Religion. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. (Special Issue)
Williams, D. R., Ambros, B. (2001). Local Religion in Tokugawa History. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. (Special Issue)
 

Monograph

Williams, D. R. Camp Dharma: Buddhism and the World War Two Incarceration of Japanese Americans. University of California Press.
Williams, D. R. (2004). The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Sôtô Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan. Princeton University Press.
 

Multimedia Scholarship and Creative Works

Website, Bibliographical Database and Educational Website on Western-Language Works on Buddhism - www.mugenproject.com, 2011-2012   
 

Honors and Awards

Japanese Government Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SF Consulate General) Commendation for Furthering U.S.-Japan Relations, 2010-2011   
 

Service to the Profession

Committees

Member, American Academy of Religion Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society Group Steering Committee, 2001-  
Member, Forum on Religion and Ecology Advisory Board, 1998-  
Co-Chair, American Academy of Religion Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society Group, 2002-2005  
 

Editorships and Editorial Boards

Advisory Board, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 2010-  
Editorial Consultant, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 2008-  
Editorial Board, Religion Compass, 2007-  
Editorial Board, Journal of Global Buddhism, 1999-  
 

Professional Offices

Managing Board member, Asian Pacific Americans and Religion Research Initiative, 05/01/2010-  
 
 

Reviewer for Publication

Early Modern Japan, Reviewer, 2010-2011   
Monumenta Nipponica, Reviewer, 2010-2011   
Oxford University Press, Reviewer, 2009-2010   
University of Hawai’i Press, Reviewer, 2009-2010   
University of California Press , Reviewer, 2007-2008   
Pacific Historical Review , Reviewer, 2005-2006   
Harvard University Press, Reviewer, 2004-2005   
University of California Press , Reviewer, 2002-2003  
 
 
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