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Changing Women's Roles In Contemporary Japanese Religions (2/2)

Panel Chair: Mira Sonntag | Monday, August 24, 1;30-3 p.m.

This panel focuses on women in contemporary religions in Japan as agents of religious change. In the Study of Religions, religious roles are usually defined by clear-cut borders based on status, gender, education etc. However, women in contemporary religions often cross or dissolve these borders by integrating multiple roles or re-defining the praxis and meanings of particular roles. The panel explores a variety of changes in role definitions and performances as initiated by contemporary women in Japanese Buddhism, Shugendō, Shintō, and Christianity, addressing the following questions: Which kinds of status and which roles are ascribed to or are accessible for women in contemporary religions in Japan? How do women (re-) define their own roles, and how do they construct their religious identity by integrating various roles? In how far does the distinction between laity and clergy actually affect women’s role performance and self-understanding? And where do they draw boundaries?

Rosemarie Bernard

Shinto Priest(ess): Contemporary Implications of Women in Shinto Practice

This paper examines the careers of women Shinto priests, with a focus on their professional activities and achievements in the last twenty years. The Shinto community, with its administrative center at the Jinja Honchô (Association of Shinto Shrines) in Tokyo generally offers relatively few full-fledged positions as Shinto priests for women beyond the traditional roles of administrative secretary, miko (ceremonial dancers and assistants), or a variety of educational roles. I will focus here on women who, despite this, have been active as priests or otherwise as Shinto practitioners since the 1990s, and whose careers span an era in which there have been seen some improvements in the status and professional opportunities granted to women in the broader society. I will explore the role of the Association of Women Shinto Priests, as well as the achievements of women locally in their communities.

Birgit Staemmler

Female Healers’ Online Strategies for Demonstrating Competency and Reliability

Contemporary Japan is a society dominated by bio-medical healing techniques and sceptical about possibly charlatanic faith healers. Non-institutionalised faith healers, many of them women, wishing to present themselves and their services on the Internet in order to attract new, totally unknown customers, thus, face the difficulty of having to demonstrate their authority as simultaneously competent and reliable healers. This is no easy task given that competency as a faith healer is best established via authentic religious experiences and associated with other-worldliness and a certain degree of extra-ordinariness. Reliability is, on the contrary, based on characteristics such as empathy, down-to-earthness and normality. The question to be addressed and answered in this paper is whether and why websites and weblogs by female faith healers use different means and emphases – biographic elements, conversion stories, terms and conditions and so on – than their male counterparts to demonstrate their competency and reliability.

Morny Joy


Morny Joy will address the issues raised in the papers presented in this panel.


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Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

University Map (pdf, 192 KB)