CFP: 27th JAWS Conference, 24-26 SEP 2016, Kobe, Japan

27th Conference of the Japan Anthropology Workshop (JAWS) 2016
Ceremony and Ritual in Japan: From Matsuri to Daily Life

Venue: Kobe University, Kobe (Japan)
Time: September 24~25, 2016 (concurrent with the 2nd EAJS Japan Conference

Deadline for paper proposals: 30 April 2016

Abstracts should be submitted through the EAJS website, but please make sure to include your JAWS affiliation in the PDF file you upload.

We invite proposals for the 27th Conference of the Japan Anthropology Workshop (JAWS), to be held on September 24-25, 2016 in Kobe, Japan.

Main conference theme: “Ceremony and Ritual in Japan: From Matsuri to Daily Life”
Convenor: Dr. Carmen Tamas (Kobe University), carmentamas[at]

25 years ago, the fifth meeting of JAWS focused on the religious practices of industrialized Japan, in an attempt to discover whether the Japanese penchant for ceremony and ritual was just a “peculiar” national characteristic or the cultural response to the human condition at the end of the century. Well into the 21st century, our meeting in 2016 will look into the transformations that formal ceremonies and festivals (matsuri) have undergone in recent years (if any) and consider how ritual practices have developed in order to better suit the needs of contemporary society.

Many of those closely involved in the performance of formal ritual acts deplore the loss of “tradition” (as an example, the date of some matsuri was changed from the original one to the nearest weekend, in order to allow for more people to come, either as participants or as tourists), while others see change as the only way to keep such practices alive and to ensure their survival into the future.

But ceremony and ritual do not apply only to the large-scale formal practices, but also to “family-sized” gestures and customs, and these have been subject to change as well. Fewer people choose a traditional funeral involving the priest from the temple they are associated with, and more opt for the general “no particular sect” mortuary homes. At the same time, it appears that more people are visiting shrines and temples for healing rituals or to pray for a romantic partner. What are the mechanisms behind these changes in a society that is now dominated by instant and worldwide communication? Are there any similarities with other transformations that have occurred along the years? Was there a traceable tipping point? And last but not least, are we going to witness a kind of ritual revival or the slow demise of the ceremonies and rituals as we know them?

We invite proposals for papers that address the topics of ceremony and ritual from a wide variety of perspectives and represent Japanese contexts within the broad scope of anthropological research:

  • Matsuri — their structure, evolution and impact on current society;
  • Religious rituals — the interplay between practice and belief;
  • Rituals of daily life — (such as formal cleaning days, sports days, summer and winter gift exchanges, Valentine chocolates, etc.) their meaning and role both for the community and the individual.