How do people navigate the complexities of religion in late-modern societies? What sociocultural influences, dynamics, and histories shape an individual’s decision to investigate Sufism, practice meditation, join an evangelical church...or avoid religion entirely? Drawing upon a forthcoming book (fall 2013) and extended, multi-site fieldwork in Japan, this illustrated talk tracks the rapidly-changing nature of religious affiliation in a globalizing world. It will also outline a research methodology that can serve anthropologists, sociologists, and historians in potentially useful ways.

John Nelson is Professor in East Asian religions in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Francisco. His areas of specialization are East Asian religions, contemporary Buddhism, cultural anthropology, globalization, secularism, and Asian Studies. Professor Nelson is the author of two books on Japanese Shinto, numerous articles, and a video documentary on Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. He will publish a new book in fall 2013 that deals with the "state and fate" of contemporary Buddhist temples in Japan. Experimental Buddhism: Innovation and Activism in 21st Century Japan follows a 21-chapter edited volume he co-produced in 2012, titled the Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Religions (Brill).

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