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Barbara Rossetti Ambros: "On Talking Terms with Mihotokesama: Material and Bodily Practices of a Jōdo Shin Healer"

Thursday March 1st 2018, 5:30 - 7:00PM
Event Sponsor
Humanities Center, Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford
Barbara Rossetti Ambros: "On Talking Terms with Mihotokesama: Material and Bodily Practices of a Jōdo Shin Healer"


The life story of Takumi Toyoko (b. 1929) illustrates the material and corporeal practices of popular Jōdo Shin in the Hokuriku region. At the intersection between a secret Jōdo Shin confraternity and a healer with an open clientele, Takumi and her devotees challenge stereotypical notions of Jōdo Shin as being opposed to magic and folk traditions. Rather than emphasizing scriptural authority, Takumi communicates directly with the Buddha Amida and wields her own body as a vehicle of salvation. Yet Amida is not Takumi’s only source of divine wisdom. She also communicates with a variety of Buddhist divinities, Shintō kami, ancestors, and animal spirits and manipulates icons and other material objects to effect healing for her clients. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and Takumi’s autobiography, this paper argues that Takumi’s embodied and affective practices defy hegemonic constructions of a Jōdo Shin identity. 


Barbara Rossetti Ambros is a professor in East Asian Religions in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research on Japanese Religions has focused on issues in gender studies; human-animal relationships; place and space; and pilgrimage. She is the author of Women in Japanese Religions (New York University Press, 2015), Bones of Contention: Animals and Religion in Contemporary Japan (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012), and Emplacing a Pilgrimage: The Early Modern Ōyama Cult and Regional Religion (Harvard University Asia Center, 2008). She has been serving as co-chair of the Animals and Religion Group of the American Academy of Religions since 2014. Previously, she served as the co-chair of the Japanese Religions Group at the American Academy of Religions from 2008 to 2014 and as the President for the Study of Japanese Religions from 2008 to 2011. She holds a PhD in East Asian Civilization and Languages from Harvard University (2002), an MA in Regional Studies East Asia from Harvard University (1995), and an MA in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University (1993).

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