Tim Graf

Associate Editor, Nanzan Institute for Religion & Culture

Instructor, Faculty of Humanities, Nanzan University

Biography and Research Interests

Tim completed his PhD in November 2017 at Heidelberg University (religious studies). His research interests focus on contemporary Japanese Buddhism, and more broadly deal with the interplay of religious practice and modern social change, globalization, and transcultural flows between Asia and the West. He holds an M.A. in Japanese studies from Heidelberg University, where he worked as a Research Associate at the interdisciplinary Collaborative Research Center Ritual Dynamics. In Japan, he conducted doctoral research as a JSPS fellow at the University of Tokyo (religious studies). He also worked as a Research Assistant at Tohoku University’s Faculty of Law. In April 2018, Tim joined the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture as an Associate Editor of the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies.

He authored several articles on the transformation of Buddhist mortuary practices, global Zen Buddhism, theories of religious practice, fieldwork methods, and Buddhist responses to the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters in Japan. He also produced a feature-length documentary film about his research titled Souls of Zen. It premiered at major international film festivals, notably Zurich Film Festival 2012, the Warsaw Film Festival 2012, and the Film Festival Max Ophüls Preis 2013. The film’s classroom edition has since been used by scholars to educate students around the world about the 2011 tsunami, Japanese Buddhism, and civic religious activism.

Tim’s dissertation covers new ground in showing how prayer monasteries, as sites of religious branding, tourism, and monastic training, work together in the making of this-worldly benefits. Based on more than two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Japan, the project investigates ways prayer monasteries market their rituals and material offerings, and examines how that marketing both reflects and shapes various global and local brand images of “Zen.” The thesis also explores how Zen prayer monasteries provide a template for modes of religious professionalization and suggest ways of understanding how religious authority is constructed in contemporary Japan more broadly. Tim is currently converting his dissertation into a book.

PUBLICATIONS


Editorial Work

  • 2015    Co-edited with Inken Prohl: “Special Focus: Zen and Popular Culture.” Feature for the Journal of Global Buddhism 16. Peer-reviewed.

Research Articles

  • 2016    “Stabilizing the Rhythms of Life after the Tsunami: Kaneta Taiō.” In Justin McDaniel, Mark Rowe, and Jeffrey Samuels (eds.): Figures of Buddhist Modernity in Asia. Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press: 60-62. Peer-reviewed.
  • 2016    “Buddhist Responses to the 3.11 Disasters in Japan.” In Mark Mullins and Nakano Koichi (eds.): Disasters and Social Crisis in Contemporary Japan: Political, Religious, and Cultural Responses. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan: 156-181. Peer-reviewed.
  • 2015    with Inken Prohl: “Introduction: Global Zen Buddhism – Looking at the Popular and Material Cultures of Zen.” Journal of Global Buddhism 16 (journal special issue, co-edited with Inken Prohl): 33-36. Peer-reviewed.
  • 2015    “Kontinuität im Wandel: Gräber als Orte buddhistischen Ahnengedenkens im gegenwärtigen Japan.” [Continuity in Change. Graves as Places of Ancestor Veneration in Contemporary Japan] In Urs Matthias Zachmann and Christian Uhl (eds.): Japan und das Problem der Moderne. Wolfgang Seifert zu Ehren. [Japan and the Problem of Modernity. In Honor of Wolfgang Seifert] München, Iudicium: 394-415. Peer-reviewed.
  • 2013    with Inken Prohl: “Ästhetik.” [Aesthetics] In Christiane Brosius, Axel Michaels, and Paula Schrode (eds.): Ritual und Ritualdynamik. Schlüsselbegriffe, Theorien, Diskussionen. [Ritual and Ritual Dynamics. Key Terms, Theories, Discussions] Stuttgart, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht UTB: 32-38.
  • 2012    with Shimazono Susumu: “The Rise of the New Spirituality.” In Inken Prohl and John Nelson (eds.): Handbook of Religions in Contemporary Japan. Leiden, Brill: 459-485. Peer-reviewed.
  • 2012    with Isomae Jun’ichi: “The Concepts of Religion and Religious Studies in Transcultural Contexts, with a Focus on Japan.” In Inken Prohl and John Nelson (eds.): Handbook of Religions in Contemporary Japan. Leiden, Brill: 59-72. Peer-reviewed.
  • 2011    “Diesseits des Jenseits. Transformationen buddhistischer Bestattungs- und
    Trauerkultur im gegenwärtigen Japan.” [Transformations of Buddhist Funerary- and Grief-Culture in Contemporary Japan] Transformierte Buddhismen 2: 24-54. Peer-reviewed.
  • 2011    “Zur Entwicklung der Kremation als Schnittstelle buddhistischer
    Transformationsprogramme in Japan.” [Cremation as an Interface for the Transformation of Buddhism - Developments in Japanese history and present] In: Gregor Ahn, Nadja Miczek, and Katja Rakow (eds.): Diesseits, Jenseits und dazwischen? Die Transformation und Konstruktion von Sterben, Tod und Postmortalität. [This Life, Afterlife, and in Between? The Transformation and Construction of Dying, Death and Postmortality] Bielefeld, Transcript Verlag: 229-257. Peer-reviewed.
  • 2011    with Gregor Ahn, Sebastian Emling, et al.: “Diesseits, Jenseits und dazwischen? Die Transformation und Konstruktion von Sterben, Tod und Postmortalität.” [This Life, Afterlife, and in Between? The Transformation and Construction of Dying, Death and Postmortality] In Gregor Ahn, Nadja Miczek, and Katja Rakow (eds.): Diesseits, Jenseits und dazwischen? Die Transformation und Konstruktion von Sterben, Tod und Postmortalität. [This Life, Afterlife, and in between? The Transformation and Construction of Dying, Death and Postmortality] Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag: 11-41. Peer-reviewed.

Research Notes

  • 2016    “Research Note: Documenting Religious Responses to 3.11 on Film.” Asian Ethnology 75(1): 203-219. Peer-reviewed.

Feature Documentaries

    Co-director, co-producer, co-editor, visual ethnographer, author

  • 2013    Buddhism after the Tsunami. The Souls of Zen 3/11 Japan Special (Classroom Edition). A documentary film by Tim Graf & Jakob Montrasio (63 minutes). English and Japanese language versions.
  • 2012    Souls of Zen. Buddhism, Ancestors, and the 2011 Tsunami in Japan. A documentary film by Tim Graf & Jakob Montrasio. m&r Kreativ (89 minutes).
    English and German language versions.

Short Films

    Co-director, co-producer, co-editor, visual ethnographer, author

  • 2016    “The Jōnenji Cherry Blossom Festival.” Vignette for Salvage and Salvation: Religion and Disaster Relief in Asia, special issue of Asian Ethnology 75(1).
  • 2016    “Training ‘Clinical Religious Specialists.’: The rinshō shūkyōshi Training Program.” Vignette for Salvage and Salvation: Religion and Disaster Relief in Asia, special issue of Asian Ethnology 75(1).

Book Reviews

  • 2018    Review Paola, Cavaliere (2015): Promising Practices. Women Volunteers in Contemporary Japanese Religious Civil Society. Leiden and Boston, Brill. H-Shukyo.
  • 2008    Review Bernstein, Andrew (2006): Modern Passings. Death Rites, Politics, and
    Social Change in Imperial Japan. Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press.
    Transformierte Buddhismen 1: 136-142.

Film Reviews

  • 2016    Review Kyoko Miyake (2016): Surviving the Tsunami – My Atomic Aunt. Asian Ethnology 75(2): 461-463.

Contact

Full CV