Jessica Starling

Associate Professor

John R. Howard Hall 233, MSC: 45
Office Hours:

By Appointment

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.


Japanese Religions

Academic Credentials

PhD 2012 University of Virginia

MA 2006 University of Virginia

BA 2000 Guilford College


In the fall of 2022, Professor Starling will be teaching IS 256 Enchanted England as part of LC’s England Humanities overseas program.

Professor Starling offers the below courses in regular rotation:

CORE 120 “Words”: Japanese Religion

RELS 106 Religion and Medicine

RELS 201 History and Theory of Religious Studies

RELS 242 Religions and Cultures of East Asia

RELS 243 Buddhism: Theory, Culture and Practice

RELS 357 Ethnographic Approaches to Religion

RELS 359 Asceticism

RELS 362/462 Zen Buddhism

RELS 490 Senior Thesis in Religious Studies

AS 400 Senior Thesis in Asian Studies


Professor Starling’s research is on Buddhism as lived in contemporary Japan, with a focus on the Jōdo Shinshū and special attention to themes such as gender, family, ethics, emotion and illness. 

Her article forthcoming in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion called “Audience, Authorship, and Agency: Religious Educational Materials for Modern Buddhist Women’s Groups in Japan,” is about Buddhist laywomen’s groups in modern Japan. Her analysis 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, and suggests that in the absence of female-authored texts, audienceship and readership might be considered as important agentive actions by women religious.

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 is also co-chair of the steering committee for the Japanese Religions Unit of the American Academy of Religion.

Location: J.R. Howard Hall