The Center for Japanese Religions and Culture (CJRC) was established at the University of Southern California (USC) in September 2011. The Center’s mission is to promote the study of Japanese religions and culture at USC and in the broader intellectual community of Japan Studies. We will foster this area of study by funding faculty-led research projects; planning conferences, colloquia, and workshops; providing faculty and graduate student research support awards; and by building our capacity to host visiting scholars and postdoctoral fellows in the near future (3-5 years). CJRC is the first research center for Japanese religions on the West Coast of the United States, and only the second such center in the country (the first is the Columbia University Center for Japanese Religion).
The establishment of the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture is a significant milestone as it is the first and only Japan Studies center at USC. Before the establishment of CJRC, USC was home to three centers devoted to East Asian area studies: the East Asian Studies Center, the U.S.-China Institute, and the Korean Studies Institute. However, the university lacked a research unit devoted to Japan. The establishment of the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture thus signifies an important moment for scholarship in Japan studies at USC. In addition to filling this very conspicuous absence in the usual triad of East Asia studies centers, CJRC also seeks to serve the needs of, and to create research synergy among, the critical mass of USC faculty members who work in this area.
Given the significant number of Japan Studies faculty who work in Japanese religions, the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture seeks to support studies that put religious change within the context of broader, trans-national and trans-Pacific historical trends. We will create opportunities for researchers working on different regions within Asia to engage in scholarly dialogue. Another primary concern of our center will be in cultivating greater dialogue between scholars of Japanese religions and theorists of religion, sponsoring and hosting events that put leading theorists of religion into conversation with scholars of Japanese religions. We are especially interested in encouraging studies of religion in contemporary Japan that actively engage broader conversations ̶ taking place in fields as diverse as Sociology, Cognitive Science, International Relations, Political Science, and Journalism, etc. ̶ about the role of religious thought and religious groups in contemporary global society.
While the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture’s primary area of focus is Japanese religions, it will also function as the university’s center for Japanese culture. As there is no other Japan center on campus, CJRC will help to build the Japan Studies community at USC and support those faculty and students on a broader level, not limited to religious studies.