Social Science Baha

Lecture Series

Gods, Power and Common Folks: City and Religion in Kyoto, Japan

Eiko Ikegami
Lecture Series LXXX
December 22, 2014

Eiko Ikegami
Gods, Power and Common Folks: City and Religion in Kyoto, Japan 

This lecture is based on Eiko Ikegami’s research over the last 10 years in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. Professor Ikegami will invite the audience to the breathtaking sights of Japan’s most famous festival, Gion Matsuri in Kyoto. The Gion festival has been running for a thousand years on an annual basis. In discussing the history and contemporary practices of the festival, she will unveil significance that has become embedded in the contemporary landscape and civic culture of Kyoto city. 

Drawing on her historical and ethnographic research, Professor Ikegami will conjure up the Shinto roots of the festival and how it became dedicated to a shrine called Yasaka. She will then point out how the Gion festival is more than just a Shinto festivity. The shrine and festival are deeply connected with the development of Kyoto’s spatial layout and the creation and transformation of what it meant for ancient Kyotoites to identify with their sense of being citizens. Even the development of the world-famous traditional courtesan district, also called Gion, is related to the history of the Yasaka shrine.

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Eiko Ikegami (PhD in Sociology, Harvard University) is Walter A. Eberstadt Professor of Sociology and History at The New School for Social Research in New York. She is the author of The Taming of the Samurai: Honorific Individualism and the Making of Modern Japan and Bonds of Civility: Aesthetic Networks and Political Origins of Japanese Culture, which won five book prizes in fields, including the John Whitney Hall Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies and the Best Book Award in Cultural Sociology from the American Sociological Association. Her current work on civility and aesthetics, cultures of Japanese capitalism and public spheres in comparative perspectives through network formation includes visualised interactive communications on the internet. Before coming to The New School, she held positions with Yale University and Nihon Keizai Shinbun (The Japan Economic Journal) in Tokyo. In 2003, she was elected to the chair of the Comparative and Historical Sociology section of the American Sociological Association.

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