Research & Practice Areas
Buddhism, Japanese religions, American Buddhism, Buddhism and the environment, Japanese American history and religion, World War Two Japanese American incarceration and internment, mixed race Japanese society, critical mixed race studies, social history of religion
Center, Institute & Lab Affiliations
- East Asian Studies Center, Affiliated Faculty
- USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, Interdisciplinary Research Group faculty member
- USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture, Director
Duncan Ryuken 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 Professor of Religion and East Asian Languages & Cultures and the Director of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture. Previously, he held the Shinjo Ito Distinguished Chair of Japanese Buddhism at UC 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 Soto Zen tradition and served as the Buddhist chaplain at Harvard University from 1994-96. He is the author The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Soto Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan (Princeton University Press, 2005) and American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War (Harvard University Press, 2019). He is also the editor/co-editor of seven volumes including Hapa Japan (Kaya Press, 2017), 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 translated four books from Japanese into English including Putting Buddhism to Work: A New Theory of Economics and Business Management (Kodansha, 1997). 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.
- Ph.D. Religion (Japanese Religions), Harvard University, 2000
- M.Div. Buddhist Studies, Harvard Divinity School, 1993
- B.A. Religious Studies, Reed College, 1991
Tenure Track Appointments
- 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
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 history, religious freedom debates in the U.S., and theories of hybridity in religion and culture. He has just completed a book about Buddhism and the WWII Japanese American incarceration.
Buddhism, Japanese religions, American Buddhism, Buddhism and the environment, Japanese American history and religion, World War Two incarceration and internment of Japanese Americans, mixed race and mixed roots Japanese people, critical mixed race studies, social history of religion
- Williams, D. R. (2017). Hapa Japan: Vol. 1 History. Los Angeles: Kaya Press.
- Williams, D. R. (2017). Hapa Japan: Vol. 2 Identities and Representations. Los Angeles: Kaya Press.
- 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.
- Williams, D. R. (2019). American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War. Harvard University Press.
- Williams, D. R. (2004). The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Sôtô Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan. Princeton University Press.
- Williams, D. R., Ambros, B., Murphy, R. (2009). Helen Hardacre and the Study of Japanese Religion. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies.
- Williams, D. R., Ambros, B. (2001). Local Religion in Tokugawa History. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies.
- Japanese Government Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SF Consulate General) Commendation for Furthering U.S.-Japan Relations, 2010-2011
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 –
- Managing Board member, Asian Pacific Americans and Religion Research Initiative”, 2009-CONT