The newly named USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture (CJRC) was originally established at the University of Southern California (USC) in September 2011, and has been funded in large part by the Japan Foundation’s Institutional Project Support (IPS) Grant Program from 2012~2015. In March 2014, the Shinnyo-en Buddhist organization pledged a $6.6 million gift to the Center, which led to the renaming of the Center in honor of Shinnyo-en’s current leader, Her Holiness Shinso Ito. Shinnyo-en’s support represents the largest gift ever given to a center dedicated to the study of Japan in North America.
The USC Shinso Ito 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 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 hosting visiting scholars and postdoctoral fellows.
The establishment of CJRC signifies an important moment for scholarship in Japan studies 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. As the first and only Japan Studies center at USC, CJRC 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 USC Shinso Ito Center 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 USC Shinso Ito Center’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.