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Title: Faith in the flesh : body and ascetic practices in a contemporary Japanese religious context
Author: Lobetti, Tullio Federico
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2011
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The religious practices that may be labelled "ascetic" are still alive and well in contemporary Japan, from the strict hardships undertaken by practitioners of various religious denominations to the "fire-walking" by lay people on harmless halfextinguished sacred fires at local celebrations. Despite the various manifestations of asceticism in Japan, few scholarly works on the subject exist, and of those that do, almost all focus on the practices of a single sect, or mention asceticism only as part of a wider discourse. This study suggests the presence, in Japanese asceticism, of threads in modes, circumstances and purposes which can be systematised in order to individuate themes underlying ascetic practice in a more general sense. In-depth qualitative fieldwork involving selected contemporary ascetic phenomena has been undertaken in order to penetrate the reality of the individuals and religious institutions involved. It emerges that the same ascetic feats can be part of the activities of a variety of religious groups, regardless of their doctrinal differences. Moreover, the process through which practitioners build their identity as ascetics, and justify their purposes, is widely subjective. This fluidity appears to be the result of a two-layered hermeneutical interpretation of the ascetic effort: an initial level of cognitive interpretation, which in some cases may correspond to doctrinal positions, and a second level of a 'bodily hermeneutic' enacted through performance. This study argues that this second level existed before doctrinal interpretations, thus allowing the circulation of the same ascetic activities within different religious traditions. My direct participation in many ascetic practices as a part of my fieldwork methodology was aimed at accessing 'bodily data' which in this work is employed in reconsidering the role of the human body as the main tool and text of ascetic practice, and in understanding asceticism as an 'embodied tradition'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available