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Prof. Mark R. Mullins, PhD

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of interest

  • Sociology of religion
  • Japanese religions
  • Christianity in Japan and East Asia, new religious movements
  • Religion-state issues in modern Japan

Competing notions of religion and secularity in occupied and post-war Japan

The concepts of “religion” and “secularisation” are often viewed as foreign and artificial constructs imposed by Eurocentric scholarship on Asian and other non-Western regions of the world. A careful analysis of the Japanese experience reveals that these concepts were not simply forced upon this context, but actively re-interpreted by Japanese actors and incorporated into the lexicon as they sought to understand and define their relationship with the larger global order over the past century. This is hardly a unique or new development in the history of Japanese religion and culture, which we should keep in mind as we consider the 19th-20th century Japanese encounter with Western concepts and ideas. Without denying that the concepts of religion and secularisation were born in the West, we must examine how they have been contextualised by a diverse range of Japanese actors and become a part of Japanese culture. While Western notions of religion and secularity have a much shorter history in Japan than conceptual systems imported from China, they have similarly become a part of the linguistic and intellectual toolkit used to interpret life in modern Japan. To move the discussion beyond the modernisation perspective, which tends to assume “secularisation” as an inevitable result of industrialisation and urbanisation, it could be more fruitful to focus on representative “actors” (individuals and groups) actually involved in defining and applying the concepts of “religion” and “secularity” in everyday life and public institutions. Rather than being preoccupied with the “Western origin” of these concepts, we need to recognise that they have been assimilated and reinterpreted by the Japanese and examine how these actors actually redefine and use these terms as they negotiate the boundaries between the sacred and secular domains. The proposed research project is an exercise in historical sociology that will involve a careful study of how these notions were used and codified in two periods. First, the formative Occupation period (1945-1952), during which the new Constitution and legal system was formulated, which led to a fundamental restructuring of Japanese religion and society; and second, the period starting from 2005, the year when the ruling Liberal Democratic Party made public its proposed revisions to the 1947 Constitution, which would fundamentally alter the current “official” understanding of religion.


2013 - present

Professor of Japanese Studies, School of Cultures, Languages and Linguistics, University of Auckland, (New Zealand) 

​2013 - present

Director, Japan Studies Centre, University of Auckland


Visiting Scholar, Asian-Pacific Studies Institute and Department of Religion, Duke University, Durham (USA)

​2002 - 2013

Professor, Graduate School of Global Studies and Faculty of Liberal Arts, Sophia University, Tokyo (Japan)

​1996 - 1997

Honorary Visiting Fellow, Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, University of Edinburgh (UK)

​1994 - 2002

Professor, Sociology of Religion and Christian Studies, Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo  (Japan) 

​1989 - 1994

Assistant/Associate Professor, Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo (Japan) 

​1989 - 2007

Adjunct Lecturer at University of Tokyo, Nanzan University (Nagoya), International Christian University (Tokyo), Temple University (Tokyo campus) and Kokugakuin University, Tokyo (Japan)

​1986 - 1989

Assistant Professor, Shikoku Gakuin University, Zentsuji (Japan)


PhD, Religion and Modern Society (Sociology of Religion), East Asian Religious Traditions, McMaster University; Hamilton, Ontario (Canada) 

Relevant Publications

  • Mullins, Mark R. “Becoming a Multicultural Church in the Context of Neo-Nationalism: The New Challenges Facing Catholics in Japan,” in “Scattered & Gathered”: Catholics in Diaspora. Edited by William Cavanaugh and Michael Budde. Portland: Wipf & Stock; Cascade Books, forthcoming 2017.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Public Intellectuals, Neo-nationalism, and the Politics of Yasukuni Shrine,” in Japanese Studies Down Under: History, Politics, Literature and Art: Overseas Symposium 2016 at Nichibunken and Otago. Edited by International Research Center for Japanese Studies. Kyoto, forthcoming 2017.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Religious Minorities and the Public Sphere: Kagawa Toyohiko and Christian ‘Counter-Publics’ in Modern Japanese Society,” in Religion, Culture, and the Public Sphere in China and Japan. Edited by Albert Welter and Jeffrey Newmark, 161–91. Singapore: Springer, 2017.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Shinsaigo no Nihon ni okeru neo-nashonarizumu [Neonationalism in Post-disaster Japan],” in Tettei Kenshō: Nihon no ukeika. Edited by Tsukada Hotaka, 128–47. Tokyo: Chikuma Sensho, 2017; transl. Saitō Kōta.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Religion in Occupied Japan: The Impact of SCAP’s Policies on Shinto and Christianity,” in Belief and Practice in Imperial Japan and Colonial Korea. Edited by Emily Anderson, 229–48. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 
  • Mullins, Mark R. and Koichi Nakano, eds. Disasters and Social Crisis in Contemporary Japan: Political, Religious, and Sociocultural Responses. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
  • Mullins, Mark R., and Kōichi Nakano. “Introductio,” in Disasters and Social Crisis in Contemporary Japan: Political, Religious, and Sociocultural Responses. Edited by Mark R. Mullins and Kōichi Nakano, 1–20. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Neonationalism, Politics, and Religion in Post-disaster Japan,” in Disasters and Social Crisis in Contemporary Japan: Political, Religious, and Sociocultural Responses. Edited by Mark R. Mullins and Kōichi Nakano, 107–31. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
  • Mullins, Mark R., ed. Critical Readings on Christianity in Japan (4 vols.). Leiden: Brill, 2015.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Japanese Responses to ‘Imperialist Secularization’: The Postwar Movement to Restore Shinto in the ‘Public Sphere’,” in Multiple Secularities Beyond the West. Edited by Marian Burchardt, Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, and Matthias Middell, 141–68. Berlin, Boston: de Gruyter, 2015.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Sacred Sites and Social Conflict: Yasukuni Shrine and Religious Pluralism in Japanese Society,” in Religious Pluralism, State and Society in Asia. Edited by Chiara Formichi, 35–50. New York: Routledge, 2014.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Christianity in Contemporary Japanese Society,” in Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Religions. Edited by John Nelson and Inken Prohl, 133–57. Leiden: Brill, 2012.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Secularization, Deprivatization, and the Reappearance of ‘Public Religion’ in Japanese Society.” Journal of Religion in Japan, 1/1 (2012): 61–82.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “The Neo-nationalist Response to the Aum Crisis: A Return of Civil Religion and Coercion in the Public Sphere?” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 39/1 (2012): 99–125.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Religion in Contemporary Japanese Lives,” in Routledge Handbook on Japanese Culture and Society. Edited by Theodore C. Bestor and Victoria Lyon Bestor, 63–74. Abingdon, New York: Routledge, 2011.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Between Inculturation and Globalization: The Situation of Roman Catholicism in Contemporary Japanese Society,” in Xavier’s Legacies: Catholicism in Modern Japanese Culture. Edited by Kevin Doak, 169–92. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2011.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Japan,” in Christianities in Asia. Edited by Peter C. Phan, 197–216. Oxford: Blackwell, 2011.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “The Social and Legal Context of Proselytization in Contemporary Japan,” in Proselytization Revisited: Rights Talk, Free Markets and Culture Wars. Edited by Rosalind I.J. Hackett, 321–38. London: Equinox Publishing, 2008.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “New Religious Movements, Independent Churches, and the Study of Christianity as a World Religion,” in Border Crossings: Explorations of an Interdisciplinary Historian. Edited by Ulrich van der Heyden and Andreas Feldtkeller. 145–56. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2008.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “The Challenges of Nationalism and Secularization for Christian Higher Education in Japan: Some Comparative Observations,” in Christian Responses to Asian Challenges: A Glocalization View on Christian Higher Education in East Asia. Edited by Philip Yuen Sang Leung and Peter Tze Ming Ng. Hong Kong: Centre for the Study of Religion and Chinese Society, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2007.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Christianity as a Transnational Social Movement: Kagawa Toyohiko and the Friends of Jesus.” Japanese Religions, 32/1 (2007): 69–87.
  • Mullins, Mark R. and Peter Nosco. “Christians in Japan: Introduction.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 34/1 (2007): 1–7.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Japanese Christianity,” in Nanzan Guide to Japanese Religions. Edited by Paul L. Swanson and Clark Chilson, et al.,115–28. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2006.
  • Mullins, Mark R. and Thomas J. Hastings. “The Congregational Leadership Crisis Facing the Japanese Church.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 30/1 (2006): 18–23.
  • Mullins, Mark R. メイド・イン・ジャパンのキリスト教 [Japanese version of Christianity Made in Japan (1998)]. Trans. by Takasaki Megumi. Tokyo: Transview Press, 2005.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Contextual Theology and Theological Education in Japan,” in Charting the Future of Theology and Theological Education in Asian Contexts. Edited by David Kwang-sun Suh, Annette Meuthrath, and Hyondok Choe. Delhi: Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004.
  • Mullins, Mark R. “Japanese Christians and the World of the Dead.” Mortality, 9/1 (2004): 61–75.
  • Mullins, Mark R., ed. Handbook of Christianity in Japan. Leiden: Brill, 2003.
  • Mullins, Mark R. and Robert Kisala, eds. Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society Through the Aum Affair. Basingstoke: Palgrave and St. Martin’s Press, 2001.