Zum Inhalt springen

Kingship and Religion in the Modern World

Panel Chair: Michiaki Okuyama | Monday, August 24, 9-11 a.m.

Studies of king, kingship, and kingdom tend to be seen as part of history or anthropology, rather than contemporary religious studies, especially when one takes for granted the secularization of modern society. Some modern democratic countries, however, have maintained the status of king or queen under their own particular conditions, as illustrated by Northern or Western Europe or by Asian countries, and in some cases, the relations between kingship and religion have provoked debate. The notion of king, kingship, and kingdom can therefore be looked at from the contemporary perspective of religious studies. This panel will present four case studies, taking up the historical or contemporary situations of Japan, Thailand, Russia, and Norway and to consider in comparison the relationship between kingship and religion, and to rethink the relationship between religion, state, and politics in the so-called post-secular modern society.

Michiaki Okuyama

Religious Dimensions of the Japanese Imperial System in the Post-Secular Society

A Japanese version of kingship, usually called the imperial system, has sometimes been characterized as lineally hereditary from time immemorial. The system contains the architectural space and ritual performance of the emperor, which were both manufactured anew in the late nineteenth century. This newly constructed imperial system functioned at the core of the modern Japanese religious polity until Japan’s defeat in World War II. After the war, the imperial system changed into a so-called symbolic polity, under a newly introduced democratic regime. The public side of the contemporary imperial system has functioned in a secularized way under the postwar Japanese constitution that prescribes the separation of religion and the state. The private side of the imperial system, however, has maintained and possibly strengthened its ritual connotation. A question addressed in this paper is what the religious meaning of the Japanese emperor has been, in particular after the postwar secularized society.

Hidetake Yano

The Religious Nature of the King in Modern Thailand

Since the Thai kingdom’s rise in the early 13th century, the Kingship of Thailand has established a close relationship with religion, especially with Theravada Buddhism. The King has supported the Sangha organization and the dissemination of Dharma. Furthermore, the King has been obligated, during this time, to govern the Thai Kingdom based on the ethical codes of Dharma to ensure social order and give his reign legitimacy. Sometimes, the King has been worshipped as a preeminent sacred person related to Hindu deities. In modernizing Thailand, since the mid-19th century, Thai Buddhism has adjusted its teachings and organization, and the word of religion has been conceptualized as the result of this transformation. In 1932, the monarch’s role has changed from absolute to constitutional. This paper addresses transition in the religious nature of the King with the transformation of Thai society in terms of morality and social order.

Madoka Inoue

The Putin Presidency and Religion

The Russian president Putin has made use of various resources and symbols in order to justify his own governance and strengthen it. Putin makes public that he has close ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, while he behaves as a leader who coordinates interests of plural religious traditions. Both of these kinds of behavior correspond with a phrase in the preface of Russia’s 1997 law on religion: it says that the federation assembly of the Russian federation recognizes “the special role of Orthodoxy in the history of Russia and in the establishment and development of its spirituality and culture” and respects “Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and other religions, constituting an integral part of the historical heritage of the peoples of Russia.” The questions to be addressed in this paper are as follows: Does Putin realize some new form of tsarizm or inherit charismatic leadership from Soviet leaders? What religious factors can be seen in Putin’s leadership?

Anne Stensvold, Erik Thorstensen

How to Make Sense of a Constitutional Monarchy

During the memorial service held in Oslo cathedral after the massacre at Utøya on 22 July 2011, the Norwegian king had no ceremonial role to play but sat crying silently amongst the crowd. Evidently, the Norwegian monarchy is secularized – like the rest of society. Present-day constitutional monarchy in Norway has evolved from the absolute monarchy (1660) with the king as sole head of church and state. Interestingly, there is one constant: “The king’s person is holy.” Even in the constitutional reform of 2012 which removed the king as head of the national church, kept the formulation unchanged. The present king, however, insisted on adding a clause which dictates that the ruling monarch shall be a member of the Norwegian church, thereby redefining what used to be a formal relationship turning it into a personal one. But even if the monarchy has been stripped of its religious role, does it mean that it has lost its religious function? But what is the meaning of a king who is like everybody else? This paper attempts to address these questions.

Miroljub Levtib


Miroljub Levtib will address the points raised in the papers as respondent.


B  C  D 
E  F  G  H 
I  J  K  L 
M  N  O  P 
Q  R  T 
U      V      W     XYZ 


A  B  C  D 
E  F  G  H 
I  J  K  L 
M  N  O  P 
Q  R  S  T 
U      V      W     XYZ 


Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

University Map (pdf, 192 KB)