Boundary Work in Japanese Religious Studies

Anesaki Masaharu on Religious Freedom and Academic Concealment

Avery Morrow

Past issues of Correspondences have sought to envision non-Western “esoteric” categories, but it remains an open question as to whether esotericism is a generic mode of thought, as opposed to a construction within intellectual history. I demonstrate some difficulties with identifying an esoteric category in modern Japanese culture, suggesting that the problem is one of discursive boundaries within the humanities. Accordingly, I examine boundary work by one of Japan’s founding religious scholars. It appears that Anesaki Masaharu engaged in two types of boundary-making: disputation of the type of authority being used by religious groups, and criticism of concealment within the academic context. Comparing the latter behavior to Western esotericism, I find that it matches up most closely to a different concept of esotericism than that commonly used in this field.

Global esotericism; disenchantment of the world; Japanese religion; critical religion; Oomoto movement