Dr Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen
PhD (SOAS), MPhil (Hong Kong Poly U), BSSc (OU)
Senior Teaching Fellow
- Dr Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen
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- SOAS, University of London
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Dr Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen - Religion and Politics in Contemporary Japan: Soka Gakkai Youth and Komeito
Japanese politics, religion and civil society in Japan, anthropology of politics, and social theory.
Currently I have two research projects going on:
1) One is a project titled, ‘A study of the impact of the Allied Powers’ policies towards religion during the occupation period through a re-examination of documents in Public Record Offices and National Archives [連合国のアジア戦後処理に関する宗教学的研究：海外アーカイヴ調査による再検討]. This is a collaborative three-year (2014-2016) research project on the treatment of religion during the Allied Occupation of Japan (1945-1952). Under the direction of Professor Tsuyoshi Nakano, this project is funded by a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Grant in Aid. The research focuses on the period of Allied Powers occupation of Japan and the impact of their policies towards religious groups, as well as religious groups’ responses to such policies. This will include policies towards Okinawa and Amami islands, and the Korean Peninsula as well.
2) The other project is a monograph tentatively titled Transformative Power of Hope: Creating Places of Conviviality in the Face of the Mass Opposition (2016). This new book is based on first hand research carried out between 2008 and 2012, and with subsequent research continuing. The book is broadly about human agency, structure, cause and transformation in light of opposition from wider societal forces (political elites, mass media, and scholars of religion and populist psychologists). It explores processes of conceptualisation surrounding the idea of “new religion” and the wider discourses (in the Foucaultian sense) of “new religion” as something that can be classified as irrational, unscientific and superstitious. This discourse in its various guises has been central to twentieth century Japanese political history, and to the construction and maintenance of the nation-state as project that can classified as “secular”, “modern” and therefor “progressive”. The beginning of this book explores the similarity of discourses that prevail in prewar and postwar Japan, but in the latter now take on different guises in light of key social forces (politicians, media and scholars) having effectively been complicit in supporting the past (devastating) state ideology. The book explores these wider historical processes of public discourses to understand in detail the dynamics of the Nichiren Buddhist organisation Soka Gakkai as it re-emerges in postwar Japan and goes on to become the most successful civil society (see Fisker-Nielsen 2012). Starting out with only a handful of members after having been dispersed during the war for opposition to the ideology of State Shinto, the book begins by re-visiting the processes of societal transformation in light of the depression of postwar Japan. It is against this background that a particular Buddhist philosophy becomes is re-interpreted to have meaning for individual existential issues as well as for collective action for social change. Now a successful twenty-first-century globalised movement, many Soka Gakkai members have become active and some central players in Japanese society today. The book explores what may otherwise easily have been a “silenced” grassroots strata rising to prominence. Through connecting the micro level of individual attitude, values and choices to macro societal levels of politics this in turn has created significant spaces of conviviality. The wider “backdoor view” of the state presented here placed within the exploration of substantial, historical occurrences, reveals most starkly, the many unseen (in public discourse) places of conviviality created through personal interaction and political commitment. It is of course not a process free of dilemmas, contradiction and controversy. However, it nevertheless is conspicuous as a process that shows the significance of social and political commitment to conceptual and attitudinal change.
Past research on politics and religion: Religion and Politics in Contemporary Japan (2012) is a study of politics at grassroots level among young Japanese. The book is based on my PhD research of 2003-4 and subsequent research carried out in 2008, 2009 and 2010. It examines the alliance between the Buddhist movement Soka Gakkai 創価学会 (the ‘Value-creating Society’) and Komeito 公明党 (the ‘Clean Government Party’). The book spans the time Komeito shared power with the Liberal Democratic Party from 1999 to 2009 and a year out of power in 2010. (The Komei party is back in government as of December 2012 and a central political player Japan currently). Drawing on years of first hand research carried out among Komeito supporters, the book focuses on the lives of supporters and voters in several distinct areas in Japan (West and North Tokyo, and Okinawa) and explores a more nuanced understanding of processes of democracy and political issues among voters and supporters than is commonly available. It goes on to discuss what the political behaviour of young Komeito supporters tell us about the role of the seeming involvement of religion in Japanese politics. The book moves beyond common analyses of religious organisations framed within abstract categories such “new religion” to explore the nature of its civil society role. Unlike most other books on politics in Japan which tend to concentrate on the manoeuvring of political elites and quantitative data, this book provides insights into political and civic culture at the grassroots level. It draws upon the ideas of the political philosopher Antonio Gramsci to explore the processes of engagement in public discourses and transformations of hegemonic ideas about politics and religion.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (Jan. 2014) ‘From Japanese Buddhist Sect to Global Citizenship: Soka Gakkai Past and Future’, INFORM conference, London School of Economics (forthcoming Ashgate).
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (Nov. 2013) ‘Secular Politics in the Age of Religion’, Social Anthropology Seminar Series 2014, SOAS.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (Feb. 2013), ‘Religion and Politics in Contemporary Japan: Soka Gakkai Youth and Komeito’, Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions, SOAS.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (Dec. 2012), ‘40 Years of Grassroots Diplomacy and the Fostering of an Internationalist Mind-set: the Disputed Senkaku Islands,’ Peace Proposal Symposium, SGI-UK, Taplow Court.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (July 2012), ‘Politics, Religion and Media in Japan’ and ‘Politics of Conflict: The 1974 Communist Party of Japan-Soka Gakkai Agreement and Beyond’ Milan, Italy
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (April 2012) ‘Socially Engaged in a Political World: Soka Gakkai and Civil Society’, Faith in Civil Society – Religious Actors as Drivers of Change. Uppsala University, Sweden.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (March 2012) ‘On Being Religious in a/the Political World: How to Understand Soka Gakkai and its Support for Komeito’. European Japan Research Centre Seminar Series 2012, Oxford Brookes University.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (Jan. 2011) Nichiren’s Political Attitude and Soka Gakkai’s Quest for Social Transformation: Keeping the Balance between an ‘Ethic of Ultimate Ends’ and an ‘Ethics of Responsibility’. Social Anthropology Seminar Series, January, 2011, SOAS.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (September 2010) ‘Protecting Soka Gakkai? Komeito’s Role in Politics from the Perspective of the Supporter’, British Association of Japanese Studies Conference, SOAS, London.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (March 2010) ‘Gramsci and Religious Movements for Cultural Change’, Japan Anthropology Workshop Conference, Austin, Texas.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (April 2008) ‘Young Soka Gakkai Members as Political Actors.’ INFORM/CESNUR conference, London School of Economics.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (April 2007) ‘To What Extent do Japanese Images of Western Political Systems Shape the Understanding of the Role of Religion in Politics for Soka Gakkai?” Japan Anthropology Workshop conference, Oslo.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (Jan. 2006) ‘Interpreting Religious Text: Soka Gakkai on the Meaning of the Spiritual as Political Action.’ Reading Spiritualties Conference, Department of Religious Studies, Lancaster University.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (May 2005) ‘Dilemmas over the Iraq War of Young Soka University Students in Their Support for the Komei Party.’ Research Student Forum: Japanese Humanities, Birkbeck & the Japan Research Centre, SOAS.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (July 2005) ‘The Issue of the Iraq War and Soka Gakkai Members’ Support for Komeito.’ Institute of Oriental Philosophy, Maidenhead, Taplow.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (April 2005) ‘Religious Messages on Gender Equality: Women in Soka Gakkai in Japan and the SGI-UK.’ British Sociological Association: Sociology of Religion Conference, Lancaster University.
- Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (Jan. 2005) Religious Idealism and Political Reality: Young Soka Gakkai Members as Komeito Supporters. The Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions Seminar, SOAS.
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- East Asia
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2012) Religion and Politics in Contemporary Japan: Soka Gakkai Youth and Komeito. London: Routledge. (Japan Anthropology Workshop Series)
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2013) 'Building A Culture of Social Engagement: Nichiren Buddhism and Soka Gakkai Buddhists in Japan.' In: Lewis, Todd, (ed.), Understanding Buddhism through Biographies. United States of America: Blackwell. (Forthcoming)
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2013) 'Socially Engaged in a Political World: Soka Gakkai as Civil Society.' Faith in Civil Society – Religious Actors as Drivers of Change . (Forthcoming)
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2012) 'Grassroots responses to the Tohoku earthquake of 11 March 2011: Overcoming the dichotomy between victim and helper.' Anthropology Today, 28 (3). pp. 16-20.
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2010) 'The Making of Representations of the Religious Adherent Engaged in Politics.' Fieldwork in Religion, 5 (2). pp. 162-179.
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2008) 'Young Soka Gakkai Members as Political Actors.' JAWS newsletter (42).
Conference or Workshop Items
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2012) On Being Religious in a/the Political World: How to Understand Soka Gakkai and Its Support for Komeito. In: European Japan Research Centre Seminar Series, 13 March, 2012, Oxford Brookes University. (Forthcoming)
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2011) Nichiren’s Political Attitude and Soka Gakkai’s Quest for Social Transformation: Keeping the Balance between an ‘Ethic of Ultimate Ends’ & an ‘Ethic of Responsibility’. In: Social Anthropology Seminar Series, January, 2011, SOAS. (Unpublished)
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2005) Dilemmas over the Iraq War of Young Soka University Students in Their Support for the Komei Party. In: Research Student Forum: Japanese Humanities, Birkbeck & the Japan Research Centre, SOAS. (Unpublished)
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2005) Religious Idealism and Political Reality: Young Soka Gakkai Members as Komeito Supporters. In: The Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions Seminar, SOAS. (Unpublished)
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2010) 'Review of 'Ideology and Christianity in Japan' by Kiri Paramore.' Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland (Third Series), 20 (2). pp. 233-235.
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2007) An Ethnography of Young Soka Gakkai Members’ Support for Komeito: Religious Idealism and Political Reality in Contemporary Japan. PhD thesis. SOAS, University of London.
Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2001) A Group of Adolescent Girls’ Life Experience and Development in Hong Kong. MPhil thesis. Hong Kong Polytechnic University.