- Copyright, Steve Hambuchen
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 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.
RELS 103 Asceticism: Self-Discipline in Comparative Perspective
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
Comparative approach to asceticism and examination of acts of self-discipline in Eastern (Jain, Hindu, Buddhist), Western (Stoic, Christian mystic), and modern secular (eco-activism, fasting diets, and extreme exercise regimes) cultural contexts.
Consideration of the question: What good is self-discipline? Depriving oneself of sensual pleasures can be seen as an antidote to materialism and a means of liberating the soul from its fleshly shackles, but is denying our inborn desires a form of self-violence?
This course encourages reflection on the academic study of religion. Through reading influential works by sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers, and historians, we will trace key debates in religious studies over the last century. We will examine ritual both as a means of symbolic and as a method for training the body to develop certain habits and dispositions (Asad). We will then consider the role experience plays in making truth claims (James, Otto, Eliade) and assess the position of the scholar relative to the study of religion (Cantwell Smith and Orsi). Frequent writing assignments and classroom discussion will provide opportunities to exchange ideas about religious studies as a field and to more broadly consider the ways religion has shaped human experience and society from antiquity to the present day.
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 ethnographies and secondary scholarship that will introduce us to contemporary problems in the scholarly study of Buddhism.
Attention will be given to diverse notions of the path and goal of Buddhism, the dynamics of lay-monastic relations, the interplay of practical and trans-worldly concerns, and Buddhism’s transformations in specific historical and cultural settings.
Healing, Spirituality, and Culture
What does it mean to be “well”? How do humans in various cultures define and attribute meaning to pain? How do they determine the effectiveness of a given treatment? Where do they locate healing agency (the power to make one well)?
This course examines these and other questions about the relationship between healing, spirituality, and culture by reading and discussing scholarship from the fields of religious studies, anthropology, sociology, and history. We will look at examples from a variety cultural contexts including ancient Greek, Chinese and Native American traditions. We will pay particular attention to the way in which dominant frameworks of authority for explaining sickness and health have changed over the last 200 years in the West, leading us to inquire into the contemporary appeal of “alternative medicine” in Portland in 2019.
Religion and Culture of Hindu India
This course will survey various historical and contemporary forms of religion on the Indian subcontinent. We will look at a diverse set of topics within Indian religion: divine revelation and ritual sacrifice; philosophical reflection on the self and the cosmos; major gods and goddesses; concepts of caste, class, and gender; popular religion and pilgrimage; iconography; domestic and temple worship; colonialism; nationalism; and the reinvention of Hinduism by modern thinkers. The class also makes extensive use of films by and about Hindus.
Students in this course will undertake a semester-long research project on a topic relating to Hinduism.
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.
Professor Starling’s research is on Buddhism as lived in contemporary Japan. 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, and her scholarly articles have appeared in the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Eastern Buddhist, Religion Compass, and the Journal of Global Buddhism. Her monograph, Guardians of the Buddha’s Home: Domestic Religion in the Contemporary Jōdo Shinshū, is an ethnography of temple wives in the True Pure Land Buddhist School (Jōdo Shinshū), published by the University of Hawai’i Press in 2019.
Starling is currently developing two new research projects. The first is an investigation of Buddhist laywomen’s groups in modern Japan, highlighting 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. The second project will use ethnographic fieldwork to investigate Japanese Buddhist women’s engagement in social work, highlighting the work of national and transnational networks of women who have taken up the cause of leprosy awareness.
Ph.D. 2012 University of Virginia
M.A. 2006 University of Virginia
B.A. 2000 Guilford College