Jessica Starling

Associate Professor

John R. Howard Hall 233, MSC: 45

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 is also affiliated with the Asian Studies and Gender Studies programs at Lewis & Clark, and teaches classes on Asian religions, religion and gender, and ethnographic research methods.


Asian Religions

Academic Credentials

PhD 2012 University of Virginia

MA 2006 University of Virginia

BA 2000 Guilford College


Spring 2021 Courses:

On Sabbatical.

Courses taught:

RELS 103 Asceticism: Self-Discipline in Comparative Perspective

RELS 201 History and Theory of Religious Studies

RELS 241 Religion and Culture of Hindu India

RELS 242 Religions and Cultures of East Asia

RELS 243 Buddhism: Theory, Culture and Practice

RELS 246 Religions of Japan

RELS 356 Buddhism and Gender

RELS 357 Family, Gender and Religion: Ethnographic Approaches

RELS 452 Topics in Asian Religions

CORE 107 Exploration and Discovery: Healing, Spirituality and Culture


Professor Starling’s research is on Buddhism as lived in contemporary Japan, and addresses themes such as Buddhist doctrine, gender, family, ethics, emotion and material practices. 

She is currently completing work on an article about Buddhist laywomen’s groups in modern Japan, which highlights the dynamics of the production of doctrinal materials by male monks in response to the voracious demand of these well-educated and well-organized women’s groups. 

A second research project engages ethnographic fieldwork to understand contemporary Buddhist responses to stigma and discrimination. Starling profiles Buddhist volunteers who have taken up the cause of leprosy (also known as Hansen’s Disease) awareness and advocacy, working both inside and outside of Buddhist institutions to redress the past and current suffering of Hansen’s Disease patients.

Starling’s scholarly articles have appeared in the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Eastern BuddhistReligion Compass, and the Journal of Global BuddhismHer first monograph, Guardians of the Buddha’s Home: Domestic Religion in the Contemporary Jōdo Shinshū (University of Hawai’i Press, 2019), is an ethnography of temple wives in the True Pure Land Buddhist School (Jōdo Shinshū).  She has received numerous fellowships in support of her research, including grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Japan Foundation, and the American Association of University Women.

Professional Experience

Professor Starling is the book reviews editor for the H-Net list serve H-Japan, and co-editor of the Buddhist section of the online journal Religion Compass.  She also serves on the steering committee for the Japanese Religions Unit of the American Academy of Religion.

Location: J.R. Howard Hall