Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, North Carolina State University
I have lived in Japan for long periods before and after Fall 2007, but the emotional intensity of the friendships I made at this time – with Soka Gakkai members, with fellow scholars, and with people from other walks of life – remain vivid and vital to me.
Professor McLaughlin spent Fall of 2007 in Tokyo, Osaka, and rural Kyūshū as a Japan Foundation Fellow, conducting research on Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist organization, for his dissertation.
He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University after previous study at the University of Tokyo, and he holds a B.A. and M.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto. He is author of *Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution: The Rise of a Mimetic Nation in Modern Japan* (University of Hawai`i Press, 2019), as well as numerous articles and book chapters on intersections of religion, politics, disaster, and other topics.
The fellowship enabled me to gather primary source documents, carry out numerous interviews, and spend four months intensively engaged with Soka Gakkai in Japan. During this period, I was able to study for and take the Gakkai’s introductory doctrinal examination, perform with a Gakkai orchestra as a violinist, and spend weeks at a time living with member families. Insights I gained during this research appear in my book Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution: The Rise of a Mimetic Nation in Modern Japan (University of Hawai`i Press, 2019), and in a range of journal articles, book chapters, and other publications. The assistance I received from the Foundation was crucial to my work as a non-member participant observer of local-level Gakkai communities across Japan.
I will always cherish the deep bonds I forged with people during this period. I have lived in Japan for long periods before and after Fall 2007, but the emotional intensity of the friendships I made at this time – with Soka Gakkai members, with fellow scholars, and with people from other walks of life – remain vivid and vital to me.
Professor McLaughlin is and active member of the Japanese Studies scholarly community. He is co-author and co-editor of Kōmeitō: Politics and Religion in Japan (IEAS Berkeley, 2014) and co-editor of the special issue “Salvage and Salvation: Religion and Disaster Relief in Asia” (Asian Ethnology, June 2016).
The research the Fellowship enabled allowed me to complete my dissertation at Princeton University in 2009, get my first tenure-track position, and ultimately made it possible for me to get the job I have now at North Carolina State University, where I was tenured in 2018. Since the fellowship period, I have expanded beyond research on Soka Gakkai to investigate intersections between religion and politics in contemporary Japan, religious dimensions of disaster, how aesthetics and affective bonds take shape in religious communities, as well as a few other avenues of inquiry.