SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen

PhD (SOAS), MPhil (Hong Kong Poly U), BSSc (OU)
  • Overview
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Expertise
  • Publications

Overview

Anne-Mette Fisker-Nielsen
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Senior Teaching Fellow

Name:
Dr Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen
Email address:
Address:
SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Building:
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
558
Office Hours:
Tuesdays 3-4pm & Thursdays 12-1pm

Biography

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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.

Teaching

Research

Research

Current Research Projects:

Project 1: ‘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 of Soka University, 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. My own part focus on the British Government policies towards religious organizations and the Emperor ideology during this period. I am primarily undertaking archival research in the British National Archives.

Project 2:Monograph Hope, Dissonance and Conviviality: In search of Transforming the Nation-State Based on first hand research and interviews carried out between 2008 and 2015, 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 historical processes of conceptualisation surrounding the idea of “new religion” and the wider discourses of “new religion” as something that is classified as irrational, unscientific and dangerous for its organisational power. Central to twentieth century Japanese political history has been the construction and maintenance of the nation-state as a project legitimised as “secular”, “modern” and “progressive”. The beginning of this book explores the similarity of discourses that prevail in prewar and postwar Japan. 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) despite its controversial status in mainstream society. Looking at the changing nature of State Shinto, the book begins by re-visiting the processes of societal transformation in light of the depression of postwar Japan. Against this background the Soka Gakkai Buddhist movement emerges as meaningful for individual existential issues, as well as for collective action for social change. The book covers particular historical episodes and controversies of the now successful twenty-first-century globalised movement, showing how many Soka Gakkai members have become active 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, Soka Gakkai members create significant spaces of conviviality, particular significant in Japan’s relations with China and wider Asia. The wider “backdoor view” of the state presented here placed within the exploration of substantial, historical occurrences reveals unseen (in public discourse) personal interactions and political commitments that impact historical processes. It is a process not free of dilemmas, contradiction and controversy, but conspicuous as a process that shows the potential significance of commitment to conceptual and attitudinal personal change within wider spheres of social action. To be completed 2018.

Project 3: Monograph Pacifism, Political Cultures and the Phantom Public Sphere in Japan Today. Based on first-hand research and interviews, this book explores the various political cultures that are emerging in Japan today with a focus on the past two and a half years of debate on the recently enacted Peace and Security Legislation heiwa anpo hōsei平和安保法制. Japan’s discourses on what constitute peace and how to achieve it intersect in complex ways with the fundamental contraction between Article 9 and Article 13 of the Japanese Constitution, as well as historical memory of Japan’s imperial past. There has been an increase in protest movements in recent years. Opposition parties have shown some success in mobilising diverse interest groups in opposition to the Security Legislation. With that has come a framing of political debates on national security as being an issue of ‘war versus peace’. This narrowing of political discourse intersects with Japan’s political “ghosts” of imperialism, which conjures up images of an expanded role for Japanese Self Defence-Forces as necessarily a sign of militarism. However, looking more closely at the actual policy processes there is a gap between the rhetoric and actual policy outcomes. The labelling of the Security Legislation as a ‘war legislation’ may be useful as a populist appeal to mobilise diverse groups of people, but does not only obscure the actual law, but also the many overlaps and common interests of opposition groups and the Security Legislation. When studied more closely, we see the continuous circular movement of revoking Japan’s imperial past. This indicate that its virtual and total assembly is always in danger of disappearing[1] (as suggested by John Dewey to Lippmann on describing the Phantom Public that makes for the public sphere).[2] Thus we see the body politics being transmogrified into representations of Japanese society and revoking “ghosts” as the legal consciousness of groups from the left and the right while not seeing that the actual policy processes have been of a pragmatic nature rather than an ideological one. Currently in Japan invoking political past ghosts are potent forms that easily fill the space of what is perceived to be the collective. And this is what is really under dispute. What is the collective in Japan? Can the collective be perceived outside Japan’s political past and the body politics? This question is significant because this ‘virtual and present entity is exactly the opposite of what is needed for the collective to be assembled’ in a meaningful way.[3] This book considers the almost impossible task of disassembling the collective from such a Phantom Public[4] of various political rhetoric that claim to represent the collective in Japan. (Further first-hand research to be carried out in July 2016.) To be completed 2017.

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.

Conference/Workshop Items
  • 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.

Expertise

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Available for
Regional Expertise
  • East Asia
Country Expertise
  • Japan
Languages

Publications

Authored Books

Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2012) Religion and Politics in Contemporary Japan: Soka Gakkai Youth and Komeito. London: Routledge. (Japan Anthropology Workshop Series)

Book Chapters

Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2016) 'Peace through friendship? The Sōka Gakkai 1968 youth movement for normalising ties between Japan and China.' In: Kim, David, (ed.), New Religious Movements in Asian History. Brill. (Forthcoming)

Fisker-Nielsen, Anne (2015) '‘Sōka Gakkai’.' In: Pokorney, Lukas and Winter, Franz, (eds.), Handbook of East Asian New Religious Movements. London: Brill . (Handbook of Contemporary Religions Series)

Fisker-Nielsen, A M (2015) '‘From Japanese Buddhist Sect to Global Citizenship: Soka Gakkai Past and Future’.' In: Gallagher, Eugene , (ed.), New and Minority Religions: Projecting the Future. London: Ashgate. (INFORM 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)

Journal Articles

Fisker-Nielsen, Anne (2016) 'Komeito abandons its principles. Or does it? Political cultures amidst changes in security legislation in Japan.' The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. (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)

Book Reviews

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.

Theses

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.

This list was generated on Sun Jun 26 00:30:40 2016 BST.