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Religious Studies

Jessica Starling

Assistant Professor

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J.R. Howard Hall

Jessie Starling joined the faculty of Lewis & Clark in 2013 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship in Japanese Buddhism at the University of California, Berkeley.  She teaches classes on Asian religions, including RELS 243: Buddhism: Theory, Culture, and Practice; RELS 242 Religions and Cultures of East Asia; RELS 244 Religion and Secularization in Contemporary Japan; RELS 356 Women in Buddhism; and RELS 357 Family, Gender and Religion: Ethnographic Approaches.


Fall 2014 Courses:

RELS 242 Religion and Culture of East Asia

Chinese and Japanese worldviews. Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Shintoism: their origins, development, interactions. Mutual influence of folk and elite traditions, expansion of Buddhism and its adaptation to different sociopolitical environments, effects of modernization on traditional religious institutions. 

RELS 243 Buddhism: Theory, Culture, and Practice

In this course students will develop a critical understanding of Buddhist philosophical concepts and religious practices.  We will read primary sources such as sermons, monastic codes, miracle tales, ritual texts and sutras, as well as ethnography and secondary scholarship that will introduce us to contemporary problems in the scholarly study of Buddhism.  Emphasis will be on East Asian forms of Buddhism, such as devotion to the Lotus Sutra, Pure Land practice, and Chan/Zen monasticism.

RELS 425 Seminar: Topics in Asian Religions

Advanced seminar in Asian religions with an emphasis on East Asia. Topics may include Zen and/or Pure Land Buddhist doctrine and practice; religion and family in East Asia; female religious adepts and theories of women’s salvation. Intensive readings in primary texts and student research projects. May be taken twice for credit with change of topic.


Professor Starling’s research concerns the role of women in contemporary Japanese “Temple Buddhism.”  The vast majority of temples in modern-day Japan are smaller parish temples run by a married Buddhist cleric, who lives together with his wife and children.  Starling’s work lies at the intersection of Buddhist doctrine, gender, family, and material practices.  After completing a monograph based on her ethnography of temple wives in the True Pure Land Buddhist school (Jōdo Shinshū), she plans to investigate the activities of Buddhist laywomen’s groups in modern Japan, including the dynamics of the production of doctrinal materials by male monks in response to the voracious demand of these women’s groups.

Academic Credentials

Ph.D. 2012 University of Virginia

M.A. 2006 University of Virginia

B.A. 2000 Guilford College

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Jessica Starling’s office is located in room 233 of John R. Howard Hall.


voice 503-768-7741

Jessica Starling Assistant Professor

Religious Studies Lewis & Clark 0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Road MSC 45 Portland OR 97219 USA

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