Scholar to Discuss Japanese Religion and Anime on Nov. 9

November 01, 2017
Jolyon Thomas

Religious studies scholar and Grinnell College graduate Jolyon Thomas ’01 will give a lecture titled “Spirit/Medium/Media: A Critical Examination of the Relationship Between Animism, Animators and Anime.”

The lecture is free and open to the public and will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, in Burling Library lounge, 1111 Sixth Ave., Grinnell.

In his lecture, Thomas will critique the oft-repeated argument that Japanese animation is thematically and aesthetically unique because it draws upon Japan’s ancient animistic traditions, which are based on the belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. He will argue that when professional observers describe anime as “animistic,” they use a politically weighted and technically inaccurate term to engage in political projects related to environmentalism or cultural nationalism.

Thomas graduated from Grinnell with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and a certificate in elementary education. He went on to receive a master’s degree in Asian religion from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a master’s degree and a doctorate from Princeton University. He is an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His research includes sketching approaches to the perennially unanswerable question of how to define religion. He writes about religion in conjunction with material and visual culture. He also studies the place of religion in policy and law. His current work explores the relationships between religion, capitalism, and sexuality.