Jolyon Thomas is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His research covers two main areas of inquiry, both of which sketch approaches to the perennially unanswerable question of how to define religion. On the one hand, he writes about religion in conjunction with material and visual culture, examining the religious lives of illustrated media (comic books and cartoons) and quotidian objects (trains, televisions, USB sticks, plastic figurines). On the other, he works on the place of religion in policy and law. Current projects investigate who gets to define religious freedom and with what political effects, how conceptions of “religion” and “the secular” appear in debates about morality, patriotism, and security in public school education in postwar Japan and the United States, and what sort of relationships exist between religion, capitalism, and sexuality. An overview of current and future projects is available here.
Jolyon’s first book, Drawing on Tradition: Manga, Anime, and Religion in Contemporary Japan, is available from University of Hawaii Press. His second book, Japan, the American Occupation, and the Problem of Religious Freedom, is under contract with the University of Chicago Press. He is now working on a third book, tentatively titled The Problematic Subject of Religious Education: Debates over Morality, Patriotism, and Security in Postwar Japan and the United States.