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Julia Cross

HCBSS Postdoctoral Fellow
Lecturer, Religious Studies
Postdoctoral Associate, Yale University, 2022
PhD, Harvard University, 2021
MA, University of California, Los Angeles, 2012
BA, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2009
Julia Cross

Julia Cross is a historian of medieval Japan, specializing in religion, death, and the body. Drawing on Buddhist manuscripts and art, her research examines how people in medieval Japan attributed religious and social significance to the body, specifically the sacred dead.

Julias book project, Relics in Medieval Japan: A Study of Texts and Material Culture, examines the syncretic nature of relic worship in thirteenth through fifteenth-century Japan. During this period, relics that had previously been under the control of powerful males in the court began to magically appear at nunneries, peripheral temples, and shrines. In her manuscript project, Julia argues that this redistribution of relics helped to create a differently gendered religious geography by linking given landscapes and peoples to this world of real and imagined relics. This change can be read through extant visual and textual culture from this period. To such an end, Julias research incorporates analysis of chronicles, records, diaries, literary narratives, religious theory, as well as national treasures from museums across Japan.

Her second project, The Mummies of Tōhoku, continues with this exploration of the sacred body and death as read through texts and objects. Focusing on mummification practices in seventeenth through nineteenth-century Japan, it questions the common assumption in Japanese scholarship that mummification was an anomaly only practiced by peripheral members of society. Julias research shows that mummification practices were not novel to this period and that they can be traced back to older practices of mountain asceticism.

Julias research has been supported by various fellowships including the Robert Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies, the Fulbright Research Fellowship, and the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS).