Levi McLaughlin, assistant professor of religious studies, has been awarded a Luce/ACLS Fellowship in Religion, Journalism and International Affairs for the 2018-19 academic year. The fellowship will support McLaughlin’s project Religious Influences on Japanese Politics and Policymaking.
Luce/ACLS fellowships are administered by the American Council of Learned Societies and are made possible by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. For nearly 100 years, the ACLS has been providing prestigious fellowships to support research by scholars in the humanities and related social sciences. The Luce Foundation seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious and art communities.
McLaughlin’s project will focus on two influential religious constituencies in Japan: members of Soka Gakkai, the religious organization that underpins the political party Komeito, and politically active Shinto affiliates that maintain strong ties with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). These religious communities operate as key vote mobilizers for the governing LDP-Komeito coalition, and they wield influence on efforts at constitutional amendments and other important measures.
This work will fill a crucial knowledge gap by supplying grassroots-level perspectives on religious practitioners who influence Japanese politics, generating data that will inform policymaking and contribute to comparative studies on interactions between religion and politics.
Building on almost two decades of ethnographic research, McLaughlin will conduct fieldwork on politically-engaged Shinto practitioners and Shinto-affiliated politicians while he is engaged in participant observation of Komeito electoral campaigns, Gakkai member training in Komeito policies, newly-emergent conflicts between the Tokyo-level Komeito and Komeito in the National Diet, and recent Gakkai member protests against Komeito.
McLaughlin’s previous work on Soka Gakkai was featured in a recent article in Kyodo News Plus, a major source of in-depth news about Japan.