Department of Religions and Philosophies, School of History, Religions and Philosophies & Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions

Professor Lucia Dolce

Key information

Department of Religions and Philosophies Numata Professor of Japanese Buddhism Centre of Buddhist Studies Chair Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions Chair Japan Research Centre Academic Staff World Languages Institute Member
Laurea MA (Venice); PhD (Leiden)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
020 7898 4217
Support hours
Term 1: Wednesday, 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm, Term 2: Thursday, 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Research interests

I am currently carrying out two distinct (albeit interrelated) projects on Japanese religious culture.

The first project explores the discourse on the body in the ritual landscape of mediaeval
Japanese Buddhism, with the aim of demonstrating the fluidity of ritual knowledge and the need of linking Japanese notions of the body to continental (Tantric) practices. In the context of this large project I am addressing methodological questions related to the application of performative theories on Japanese premodern ritual (see also Dolce 2010a &b) and the possibilities of a practice-centred approach to analyse Japanese religion in its entirety.

The second project deals with the relation between Buddhism and ‘Shinto,’ in particular contemporary forms of associative practices. I have recently completed a co-edited volume (in Japanese), based on an international workshop held at SOAS in spring 2011, which reflects on the paradigms through which the ‘Buddho-Shinto combination’ has been studied (Dolce 2013) and the particularities of the locativization of Buddhism in Japan. I continue to explore this topic by addressing the revival of premodern practices in well-known shrines in the Kyoto area.

The Lucky Gods of Tokyo: Religious and Spatial Politics of a Contemporary Urban Pilgrimage (with Dr Tatsuma Padoan, Newton Fellow, 2014-2016)

This project explores how Tokyo urban space is reconfigured in specific pilgrimage routes connecting Buddhist and Shinto institutions: the pilgrimage of the Seven Gods of Fortune (shichifukujin). Focusing on a number of case studies, it seeks to study the processes of negotiation and confrontation between different institutions and institutional levels, as well as the dynamics of religious marketing that shape the relationship between cultic centres and practitioners.

Current PhD Students

  • Rachel Williams, "The Buddhist complication of Japanese Secularity: Iconography and Religious Practice in Early Modern Japan"
  • Haruka Saito, “The Blessing of the Dharma: Prayer and Buddhist Soteriology in Repentance Ritual in Medieval Japan”
  • Sooyeun Yang, “Astrological Cults in Korean Buddhism.”
  • Yeonju Lee, “Korean New Religions and the Construction of Nationalism.”

Previous PhD Students

  • Emanuela Sala, “The Yōtenki: Kami Identities in Medieval Sannō shintō.  (PhD awarded 2022)
  • Ronit Wang, “Hell Parks: A Modern Thai Interpretation of the Buddhist Hells.”  (PhD awarded 2022)
  • Harriet Hunter, “A Transmission and Its Transformation: The Liqujing Shibahui Mantuluo in Daigoji. (Leiden University) (PhD awarded 2018)
  • Yaara Morris, “The Kinpusen Himitsuden: Ritual and Spatial Construction in Medieval Japan.” (PhD awarded 2019) 
  • Masato Kato, “Translating a 'religion', translating a 'culture': cultural negotiation of a Japanese new religion in a transnational context.”  (PhD awarded 2018)
  • Shinya Mano, “Yōsai and the development of Zen-Esoteric Buddhism.” (PhD awarded 2014) 
  • Kigensan Licha, “The Esoterization of Soto Zen in Medieval Japan.” (PhD awarded 2012) 
  • Benedetta Lomi, “The Precious Steed of the Buddhist Pantheon: Rituals, faith and images of Batō Kannon in Japan.” (PhD awarded 2011)  
  • Masaaki Okada, “Nature in the healing and farming practices of Okada Mokichi of Sekai Kyūsei Kyō.” (PhD awarded 2011) 
  • Fumi Ouchi, “The Somatic Nature of Enlightenment: Vocal arts in the Japanese Tendai tradition.” (PhD awarded 2011) 
  • Tullio Lobetti, “Faith in the flesh: body and ascetic practices in contemporary Japanese religious context.” (PhD awarded 2011)
  • Satomi Horiuchi, “Expressing Emotions: Memorial Services in Contemporary Japanese Christianity.” (PhD awarded 2011)

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Yeonju Lee Korean New Religions and the Construction of Nationalism
Haruka Saito Repentance Ritual in Medieval Japan: Prayer and Buddhist Soteriology (working title)
Sooyeun Yang Astrological Cults in Korean Buddhism


Contact Lucia