Shinto Studies and Nationalism

  • Time: 12–14 September, 2007
  • Venue: Austrian Academy of Sciences
  • Organisation: Bernhard Scheid (IKGA)

participants and abstracts

Topic and résumé

Shinto Studies prospered under the Nazi rule in Germany to the extent that outside Japan German scholars took a leading role in this field. After WW2, however, most German scholars abandoned their dealing with Shinto completely. While these observations mainly concern Shinto Studies in German-speaking countries, there seems to be a similar retreat in other Western countries, as well as in Japan itself. Obviously, the involvement of Shinto in the Japanese nationalist agenda gave the study of Shinto a negative image after the war. Prone to carrying the stigma of nationalism, the general attitude towards Shinto became one of tabooed evasion in the academic field – Shinto, the locus classicus of defilement (kegare), turned into a defiled object itself. More than sixty years after the defeat of German and Japanese nationalism, it seems appropriate to change this attitude, even if this implies the delicate question in which way the forefathers of the present academic community participated in nationalist propaganda.

In the course of this conference ten scholars from Europe, Japan, and the US discussed the influence of Japanese nationalism on scholarly discourse in the early 20th century, especially on the discourse about Shinto. The discussion also touched upon the historical roots of State Shinto and its possible impact on the present image of Shinto in general.

The proceedings of this conference are published as:

Bernhard Scheid, Kate Wildman Nakai (eds.), 2013
Kami Ways in Nationalist Territory: Shinto Studies in Prewar Japan and the West. (BKGA 78.) Wien: VÖAW, 2013 (order online).