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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Faking Liberties
Author(s):
Jolyon Baraka Thomas
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226618968.003.0001

A widespread post-World War II narrative suggests that American occupiers liberated Japan by bringing the universal principle of religious freedom to a country captive to the particularist religion of “State Shintō.” But this chapter shows that by identifying Japan as the problem and religious freedom as a solution, the triumphalist Occupation narrative fails to account for the coercive qualities and historical particularities of religious freedom practice. Arguing that religious freedom is not an ethereal principle that is introduced to a nation or applied to a situation, the chapter suggests instead that freeing religion is a mundane project subject to political machination and discursive manipulation. Parties involved in this project include political leaders, policy makers, clerical authorities, and scholars of religion, all of whom “make” religion in order to free it.

Keywords:   religious freedom, occupation, human rights, religion-making, religious studies, State Shintō, coercion

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