Idology in transcultural perspective: Anthropological investigations of popular idolatry

Aoyagi Hiroshi, Patrick W. Galbraith*, Mateja Kovacic

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter introduces the edited volume, which builds on initial case studies of popular idolatry in Japan, or what Aoyagi Hiroshi intended in the first decade of the new millennium to establish as a subfield of symbolic anthropology called "idology," but goes further to provide a transcultural perspective to guide anthropological investigations of popular idolatry in different places and times. While agreeing that Japan-which Aoyagi refers to as "islands of eight million smiles," a reference to a vision of Japan populated by gods/idols-is a fascinating place to start, it is not the only place where popular idolatry comes to resemble religion or spirituality. On the one hand, a transcultural approach addresses some of the shortcomings of scholars delving into case studies of contemporary idolatry without cross-cultural or historical perspective. On the other hand, a transcultural approach pushes back against arguments about cultural uniqueness, which tend to make forms static or even nationalized. In proposing an integrated paradigm for the growing body of literature on idols, the volume redirects recurrent questions to more fundamental points of sociocultural inquiry and facilitates cross-cultural, critical and collaborative discussion. The introduction also calls for advancing the theoretical framework and methodology of idology by bringing anthropology into dialogue with science and technology studies and the growing body of literature on animation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIdology in Transcultural Perspective
Subtitle of host publicationAnthropological Investigations of Popular Idolatry
EditorsAoyagi Hiroshi, Patrick W. Galbraith, Mateja Kovacic
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783030826772
ISBN (Print)9783030826765
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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