Department of History

Michael Walters

I previously completed an Interdisciplinary Master of Arts (IDMA) in East Asian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, addressing questions of Meiji Era modernity and transnational Buddhism. My thesis focused on the globetrotting Rinzai Zen priest and author Shaku Sōen as a case study of the paradigmatic New Buddhist: cosmopolitan, educated according to Western norms, and committed to a rational apologetics of Japanese Buddhism. My current research interests build upon this previous work. I am interested in the intersection of popular culture and Buddhism, particularly in the decades after the Second World War. I wish to center my research on questions of coping or co-opting that occur in and between institutional Buddhism in Japan and popular culture products in a society impacted by flourishing consumerism and globalization. Additional areas of interest include questions of religious praxis and play, as well as depictions of monstrosity across the religious, folkloric, and mass culture sectors.

Advisor: Raja Adal

None But “We Heathen”: Shaku Sōen at the World’s Parliament of Religions (MA thesis), 2007