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Prof. Jason Ānanda Josephson-Storm, PhD

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of interest

  • Japanese History, Religion, Philosophy
  • East Asian Buddhism
  • Theories of Religion
  • Buddhism
  • European Intellectual History (1600-Present)
  • Philosophy  of Science

New world orders. A transnational genealogy of secularism between Europe and East Asia

Although the concept of “secularism” is usually portrayed as emerging in European thought out of a necessity to reconcile the conflict between the Catholic and Protestant confessions, this research project will show how “secularism” appeared in a global system of exchanges between early modern European and East Asian thinkers. First, it will show how European conceptions of secularism appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries via a productive misreading of East Asian cultural forms. Having encountered the Chinese term sanjiao (三教) “three teachings”, European thinkers in the 17th century got the idea that there were three religions in the East Asian world, even as they disagreed about what those religions were. Moreover, many European intellectuals came to believe that China and Japan were multi-confessional empires, ruled by enlightened literati. As I will argue, the Confucian model partially gave birth to modern “secularism”.
Second, the project will turn towards 19th century China and Japan and show how importing European conceptions of a division between religion and a secular state overwrote East Asian conceptions of the three teachings. In this period, East Asian leaders worked out a new division between religious and secular, which changed the meaning of “teachings” (Ch. jiao, Jp. oshie), in many cases producing a linguistic split between secular state teaching (Jp. jikyō, Ch. zhijiao) and religion (Jp. shūkyō, Ch. zongjiao). Accordingly, they produced multiple secularities and multiple religions in East Asia that were only partially reliant on either European examples or indigenous precedents. In summary, the project aims to demonstrate the transnational history and plurality built into the concept of “secularism”.


​2013 - present

Chair and Associate Professor of Religion, Williams College, Williamstown (USA)

​2007 - 2013

Assistant Professor of Religion, Williams College, Williamstown

​2011, 2016

Visiting Fellow, Käte Hamburger Kolleg, Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany)

​2006 – 2007

Post Doctoral Research Associate, Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University (USA)


PhD, Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University (USA)

​2004 - 2006

Visiting Scholar, École Française d’Extrême-Orient, Paris (France)

Relevant Publications

  • Josephson-Storm, Jason Ā. The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, forthcoming in 2017.

  • Josephson-Storm, Jason Ā. “Japanese Accounts of Religion,” in Blackwell Companion to Religious Diversity. Edited by Kevin Schilbrack. Blackwell, forthcoming.

  • Josephson-Storm, Jason Ā. “The Superstition, Secularism, and Religion Trinary: Or Re-Theorizing Secularism,” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion (2017): 1-20.
  • Josephson, Jason Ā. “L’invention des religions japonaises: les limites de l’orientalisme et de l’universalisme” Asdiwal: revue genevoise d'anthropologie et d'histoire des religions, 10 (2015): 77–96.

  • Josephson, Jason Ā. “The Paradoxes of Secularism in Contemporary Japan,” Nonreligion & Secularity. The Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network’s blog, 13 October, 2014,

  • Josephson, Jason Ā. “The Modern Spirit of Asia: Modern Spirits,” The Immanent Frame. Secularism, religion , and the public sphere (blog), 8 May, 2014, .

  • Josephson, Jason Ā. “Reflexive Religious Studies: A Note,” Religion Bulletin. The blogging portal of the Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 18 April, 2014, 

  • Josephson, Jason Ā. “The Politics of Buddhist Studies in Early Twentieth-Century Japan.” Japanese Religions, 39/1&2 (2014): 1–9.

  • Josephson, Jason Ā. “The Invention of Religions in East Asia,” in Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia. Edited by Bryan S. Turner and Oscar Salemink, 17– 29. London, New York: Routledge, 2014.

  • Josephson, Jason Ā. “God’s Shadow: Occluded Possibilities in the Genealogy of Religion.” History of Religion, 52/4 (2013): 309–39.

  • Josephson, Jason Ā. “An Empowered World: Buddhist Medicine and the Potency of Prayer in Japan,” in Deus in Machina: Religion, Technology, and the Things in Between. Edited by Jeremy Stolow, 84–117. New York: Fordham University Press, 2012.

  • Josephson, Jason Ā. The Invention of Religion in Japan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

  • Josephson, Jason Ā. “The Invention of Japanese Religions.” Religion Compass, 5/10 (2011): 589–97.

  • Josephson, Jason Ā. “Evil Cults, Monstrous Gods, and the Labyrinth of Delusion: Rhetorical Enemies and Symbolic Boundaries in the Construction of ‘Religion’ in Japan,” in Bochumer Jahrbuch zur Ostasienforschung. Edited by Hans Martin Krämer, 39–59. Bochum: IUDICIUM, 2009.

  • Josephson, Jason Ā. “When Buddhism Became a ‘Religion’: Religion and Superstition in the Writings of Inoue Enryō.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 33/1 (2006): 143–68 (Reprinted in: Buddhism and Religious Diversity. Edited by Perry Schmidt-Leukel, London: Routledge, 2012).