TALK CANCELED: How Japanese Buddhists Tried to Make Bad Kids Good

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS TALK IS CANCELED This talk tracks how ensuing debates over patriotic ritual, moral instruction, vocational training, and sex education reflected uncertainties about the relationship between religion, democratic citizenship, and capitalist subjectivity.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM (Pacific Time)
Royce Hall, Rm 243
Los Angeles, CA 90095
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Japanese society in the 1950s and 1960s was filled with anxieties about “the kids these days.” Demobilized soldiers returned home from the Asia-Pacific War addicted to methamphetamine. Children growing up unsupervised in Japan’s firebombed cities dabbled in larceny and gobbled up pornography. Television and cinema offered alluring depictions of sex and violence. Against this backdrop, leading politicians began calling for “more religion” as a solution to Japan’s myriad social problems. Buddhists avidly responded, generating educational treatises and arguing that introducing Buddhist teachings in public schools could help develop a morally upright citizenry. These creative Buddhist attempts to make bad kids good utterly failed, but they spurred some of the most doctrinally innovative Buddhist thinking of the twentieth century.

Jolyon Thomas researches religion in Japan and the United States. His first book, Drawing on Tradition: Manga, Anime, and Religion in Contemporary Japan, appeared from University of Hawai`i Press in 2012. His 2019 University of Chicago Press monograph, Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan, received an Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion (Analytical-Descriptive Studies) from the American Academy of Religion in 2020. His third book, Difficult Subjects: Religion and the Politics of Public Schooling in Japan and the United States, is under contract with University of Chicago Press. Thomas is also co-editing The New Nanzan Guide to Japanese Religions.

This is an in-person event only. Masking is encouraged.

Cost : Free and open to the public but registration required

Jennifer Jung-Kim

Download file: Jolyon-Thomas-at-UCLA-2024-xs-0us.pdf

Sponsor(s): Center for Buddhist Studies, Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies, Asian Languages & Cultures