Menue phone
all research fellows

PD Dr. Ugo Dessì

Senior Reseach Fellow


Areas of interest

  • Japanese religions
  • Religion and globalisation
  • Religion and secularity

The globalisation of religion and multiple secularities in Japan and beyond

Aiming to integrate the discussion on multiple secularities into a comprehensive model for the study of Japanese religions within global dynamics, I adopt the working hypothesis that the emergence of “globally-oriented” identities within Japanese religions is generally prompted by two main relativising forces: the intensified connectivity within the global cultural network; and global polycentric functional differentiation understood as the declining scope of religious authority. These two relativising forces can affect the authority-structure of religious systems in diverse ways, thus prompting their global repositioning under three different modalities. The first modality implies repositioning at the inter-religious level (exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralism, multiple commitments/conversion), the second occurs at the discrete-elements level (anti-homogenisation, glocalisation, chauvinistic glocalisation, homogenisation), and the third at the inter-systemic level (anti-secularisation, secularisation, conditional secularisation, stopgap function). I contend that the multiple secularities approach offers precious insights into the third modality of religions’ global repositioning occurring at the inter-systemic level. In my research project, I apply Wohlrab-Sahr’s and Burchardt’s interpretive scheme based on four forms of secularity (for the sake of individual rights and liberties; for the sake of balancing/pacifying religious diversity; for the sake of national integration and development; for the sake of the independent development of functional domains of society) to the modern Japanese context to provide further support for the understanding of conditional secularisation as the result of border negotiations between religion and other social systems. Among the various examples of such dynamics, there are indications that the first kind of secularity (for the sake of individual rights and liberties) operates in the Japanese Constitution and its mainstream interpretation, and that a surplus of secularity might also have been contrived for the sake of pacifying religious diversity through the 1995 revisions to the Religious Corporation Law. Moreover, the 2006 revisions to the Fundamental Law of Education suggest that national cohesion and progress can also be sought after through a counter-secularisation move, while those to the Organ Transplant Law (2009), ended with the establishment of strictly non-religious criteria for the legal definition of death.


​2014 - present

Honorary research associate, University of Cape Town, Cape Town (Africa)

2013 - 2015

Visiting scholar, Dōshisha University, Kyoto, (Japan)


Scholar in residence, Buddhist Study Center, Honolulu (USA)


Visiting scholar, Masaryk University (Czech Republic)

since 2012

Lecturer, Institute for the Study of Religions, Leipzig University, (Germany) 


Habilitation, Study of Religions, Leipzig University

​2010 - 2015

Lecturer, Institute for the Study of Religions, Leipzig University

​2008 - 2009

Postdoctoral Fellow, (JSPS) Ōtani University, Kyoto (Japan)


PhD, Study of Religions, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Marburg (Germany)

Relevant Publications

  • Dessì, Ugo. “The Pure Land and This World,” in The Buddhism of Pure Lands: A Thematic Anthology of Primary Sources. Edited by Georgios T. Halkias and Richard K. Payne. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. (forthcoming 2017).
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Religion, Globalization and Glocalization,” in Handbook of Transregional Studies. Edited by Matthias Middell. London and New York: Routledge. (forthcoming 2017).
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Risshō Kōseikai,” in Handbook of East Asian New Religious Movements. Edited by Lukas Pokorny and Franz Winter. Leiden, Boston: Brill. (forthcoming 2016).
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Fragments of Global Culture: Japanese Religions, Relativization, and Glocalization.” Religions 2017, 8/1.
  • Dessì, Ugo. The Global Repositioning of Japanese Religions: An Integrated Approach. Farnham: Ashgate, 2016.
  • Dessì, Ugo and Galen, Amstutz, eds. New Research on Japanese Religions under Globalization (special issue of the Journal of Religion in Japan 3/2-3). Leiden: Brill, 2014.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Religious Change as Glocalization: The Case of Shin Buddhism in Honolulu,” in Buddhist Responses to Globalization. Edited by Leah Kalmanson and James Mark Shields, 33–50. Lanham: Lexington Press, 2014.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Risshō Kōseikai within Globalization: A Multidimensional Approach.” Journal of Religion in Japan, 3/2-3 (2014): 121–40.
  • Dessì, Ugo and Galen Amstutz. “Approaching Japanese Religions under Globalization.” Journal of Religion in Japan 3/2-3 (2014): 83–95.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “‘Greening Dharma’: Contemporary Japanese Buddhism and Ecology. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 7/3 (2013): 334–55.
  • Dessì, Ugo. Japanese Religions and Globalization. London, New York: Routledge, 2013.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Religion, Hybrid Forms, and Cultural Chauvinism in Japan.” Journal of Religion in Japan, 1/2 (2012): 168–87.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Japanese Religions, Inclusivism, and the Global Context.” Japanese Religions, 36/1-2 (2011): 83–99.
  • Dessì, Ugo, ed. The Social Dimension of Shin Buddhism. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2010.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Religion, Networking, and Social Issues in Japan: The Case of the Kyōdan Fuchi Kenkyūsho Konwakai.” Japanese Religions, 35/1-2 (2010): 87–100.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Social Behavior and Religious Consciousness among Shin Buddhist Practitioners.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 37/2 (2010): 335–66.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Shin Buddhism and Globalization: Attitudes toward the Political Subsystem and Pluralism at the Organizational and Individual Levels,” in The Social Dimension of Shin Buddhism. Edited by Ugo Dessì, 241–66. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2010.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Shin Buddhism, Authority, and the Fundamental Law of Education.” Numen, 56/5 (2009): 523–44.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Objectivity and Belief in the Academic Study of Shin Buddhism.” The Pure Land (New Series), 25 (2009): 57–70.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “The Pure Land as a Principle of Social Criticism.” Japanese Religions, 33/1- 2 (2008): 75–90.
  • Dessì, Ugo. Ethics and Society in Contemporary Shin Buddhism. Berlin: Lit, 2007.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “Why Be Engaged? Doctrinal Facets of Jōdo Shinshū Social Activism.” The Pure Land (New Series), 22 (2006): 103–12.
  • Dessì, Ugo. “The Critique of Anthropocentrism and Humanism in Present-day Shin Buddhism.” Japanese Religions, 31/2 (2006): 111–25.