Bonds of the Dead
Temples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism
University of Chicago Press 2011
New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in East Asian StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network December 15, 2011 Carla Nappi
Mark Rowe‘s new book Bonds of the Dead: Temples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism (University of Chicago Press, 2011) is a fascinating study of the life of Buddhism in Japan by looking at the many facets of death in modern Japanese Buddhism. Rowe guides us from the early background of the temple-parishioner system in Tokugawa Japan to a modern context in which the emergence of new funerary forms has re-defined what post-mortem embodiment means, in terms of relationships, fear, materiality, and nature. In this exceptionally rich an sensitively wrought study, Rowe re-conceptualizes what it looks like to study Buddhism in modern Japan by weaving an account from texts, objects, voices, and personal experience. It is also a fascinating read, full of surprising stories and insights. We covered many topics in the course of our wide-ranging interview, including the changing conception of the “family” in Asian studies, what it’s like to be the head of parking at an eternal memorial grave, the physicality of death, and why choosing a head temple priest both is and is not like Donald Trump’s The Apprentice.