“Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution” chapter descriptions

For those who are interested, here are chapter descriptions for my new book, “Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution: The Rise of a Mimetic Nation in Modern Japan. The hardcover is available for purchase here: https://www.uhpress.hawaii.edu/title/soka-gakkais-human-revolution-the-rise-of-a-mimetic-nation-in-modern-japan/

Chapter One: Soka Gakkai as Mimetic Nation

Here, I suggests ways analysis of Soka Gakkai contributes to the theoretical category of “mimesis” by conceiving of Soka Gakkai as a “mimetic nation-state.” That is, Soka Gakkai makes itself intelligible and attractive by emulating the institutions, activities, and ideologies perpetuated by nation-state enterprises. Its mimesis of the nation-state’s authority-bearing institutions and practices, particularly those rooted in modern standardized education, proved compelling to converts who flocked to Soka Gakkai, especially those who joined in the decades following World War II. Attention to mimesis also offers explanations about conflicts Soka Gakkai has encountered throughout its history.

Chapter Two: From Intellectual Collective to Religion: A History of Soka Gakkai

This chapter draws on the Gakkai’s archival history to follow the Gakkai’s mimetic development in an overview of its origins as a small educational reform society that burgeoned into a massive religion.

Chapter Three: Soka Gakkai’s Dramatic Narrative

This investigates ways Gakkai media and their attendant practices conflate Nichiren Buddhist martyrdom and modern Romantic heroism in a dramatic narrative that relies on tropes from the Japanese educational curriculum. It focuses in particular on a close reading of “The Human Revolution” (Ningen kakumei), the serial novel at the center of Soka Gakkai’s textual canon.

Chapter Four: Participating in Canon

This chapter continues discussion of the Gakkai’s dramatic narrative as it suggests one response to a perennial question—what is new about a New Religion?—by describing distinctive features of Soka Gakkai’s equivalent of a new canon. The promise of appearing personally in a still-developing canon is one reason a New Religion may prove more alluring to converts than an older organization.

Chapter Five: Cultivating Youth

The investigation here presents a historical and ethnographic study of the Gakkai’s youth training systems and considers how generational changes in instruction mirror educational shifts within the Japanese modern nation-state.

Chapter Six: Good Wives, Wise Mothers, and Foot Soldiers of Conversion

This is an exploration of ways Soka Gakkai replicates Japanese state support for the sengyō shufu, the professional housewife at the center of the family unit that constructs the modern nation. The chapter emphasizes tensions that emerge between the Soka Gakkai ideal of woman as wife, mother, and cultivator of the home and Gakkai administration’s demands on its Married Women’s Division to be active outside the home, and it explains what happens when a Soka Gakkai household collapses.

Afterword: Vocational Paths

The brief afterword discusses dilemmas that confront Soka Gakkai as it seeks to appeal to a new generation of members who are driven by aspirations that are not necessarily accommodated by the organization’s now-traditional mass participation focus and suggests ways Soka Gakkai may develop in the future.

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