Conference: Multifaceted Divinities in Japan and Beyond

call for papers [150-2]The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv University

May 29-31, 2016

The Israeli Association of Japanese Studies (IAJS) is glad to announce an international workshop on Japanese medieval divinities, which will be held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv University on May 29-31, 2016. The workshop is dedicated to the memory of the Late Prof. R.J. Zwi Werblowsky (Hebrew University), a renowned scholar of comparative religion, who passed away last summer.

The workshop seeks to examine the confluence of various religious systems in medieval Japan through portraits of individual, often multifaceted or pantheon-like, divinities. While investigating the complex identity of these divinities, the presentations will look more broadly at the dialectics of Buddhism (and other imported traditions) and localism, which shaped and disseminated all aspects of Japanese religiosity. 

Throughout the medieval period the pantheon was continuously shaped and re-shaped both by inner currents within the religious sphere and by social, geographical and political circumstances specific to Japan. This concurrence is manifested in the multiple and chaotic identities of individual divinities. Rather than mere objects of worship, these divinities functioned as powerful and efficacious figures that shaped reality through complex ritual systems. They were pivotal entities in the creation of notions of identity, territory and sovereignty, and their combinatory nature had impact on their social and political roles. 

The examination of Buddhism and local cults in Japan calls for a broader exploration of the theme in other Asian cultures where divinities of local cults throve under Buddhist and other religious influences. The workshop will thus incorporate a panel dealing with divinities of complex nature in other Asian cultures, and will conclude with a round table discussion on the combinatory phenomenon in a comparative fashion. Our aim is to look beyond the dichotomy of Buddhism and localism with which we start and to open a theoretical discussion on the multivalent identity of Asian gods. 

Keynote speaker: Bernard Faure, Columbia University 

Participants: Abe Yasurō (Nagoya University); Irit Averbuch (Tel-Aviv University); Lucia Dolce (SOAS); Ehud Halperin (Tel-Aviv University); Kadoya Atsushi (Iwaki Meisei University); Sujung Kim (DePauw University); Yagi Morris (SOAS); Or Porath (UCSB); Fabio Rambelli (University of California, Santa Barbara); Gil Raz (Dartmouth College); Jacob Raz (Tel-Aviv University); Carina Roth Al Eid (University of Geneva); Saitō Hideki (Buddhist University); Gaynor Sekimori (SOAS, London); Meir Shahar (Tel-Aviv University); Eviatar Shulman (Hebrew University); Suzuki Masataka (Keio University); Mark Teeuwen (Oslo University).

We welcome scholars and students who wish to attend the workshop. Those who are interested in further details please contact the organizers Irit Averbuch ( and Yagi Morris ( The conference site will be accessible via the IAJS website (

The Oranizing Committee:
Dr. Irit Averbuch (Tel Aviv University)
Ms. Yagi Morris (SOAS)
IAJS Academic Committee
Dr. Shalmit Bejarano (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Prof. Rotem Kowner (University of Haifa)

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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