Levi McLaughlin

Picture of Levi McLaughlin

Assistant Professor


Levi McLaughlin is Assistant Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at North Carolina State University, where he teaches courses on religion in Asia. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University after previous study at the University of Tokyo, and he holds a B.A. and M.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto. He has worked as a research assistant at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo and was a visiting research fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore and the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Iowa.

Levi's research focuses primarily on religion in modern and contemporary Japan and considers how the category of religion takes shape in the contexts of politics, education, and other spheres. Levi is the first non-member, non-Japanese researcher to spend years as a participant observer of Soka Gakkai, Japan's largest New Religion. His publications and presentations to date have centered on grassroots-level experiences of Soka Gakkai members in Japan and his research considers how this organization challenges widely accepted "religion" parameters through its doctrinal, cultural, and political initiatives. Levi's most recent scholarship investigates political activism by Soka Gakkai members and religious responses to the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters in Japan of March 2011.

Articles and book chapters by Levi appear in English and Japanese in The Asia-Pacific Journal, Asian EthnologyJapanese Journal of Religious Studies, Sekai, the Social Science Japan Journal, and other publications. Levi is co-author and co-editor of Kōmeitō: Politics and Religion in Japan (IEAS Berkeley, 2014) and co-editor of the special issue "Salvage and Salvation: Religion and Disaster Relief in Asia" (Asian Ethnology, June 2016). His book Soka Gakkai's Human Revolution: The Rise of a Mimetic Nation in Modern Japan is forthcoming from the University of Hawai'i Press.

Teaching and Research Interests

Asian religions (particularly traditions of Japan and China), history of modern Asia, theories and methodologies of the study of religion, religion and politics in Asia, Buddhism, anthropology of religion, fieldwork methodology, and religion and development.

Further details can be found at http://ncsu.academia.edu/LeviMcLaughlin/About


  • Ph.D. in Religion from Princeton University, 2009
  • M.A. in East Asian Studies from University of Toronto, 1998
  • B.A. in Japanese Studies from University of Toronto, 1996