James Shields

James Shields

Professor of Comparative Humanities and Asian Thought
Director of Comparative Humanities
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I was born in 1969 and raised in the Maritime province of New Brunswick, Canada by a Scots-Spanish-Filipino mother and Irish-Dutch-Canadian father. Half of my paternal ancestors were Anglo-Dutch Loyalists who fled to Canada during the American Revolution, the other half Scotch-Irish immigrants who left the Belfast area during the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s. On my mother's side, I have deep roots in the Glasgow area of Scotland, along with ties to a young Gallegan adventurer named Don Juan Antonio de Aenlle y Rocha, who sailed to the Philippines in the mid-19th century and married into a prominent Filipino family, the Burgoses. My parents ultimately met in Montréal, Canada, in the early 1960s, a city that remains, with Kyoto, Japan, my spiritual hometown. Please see the link to my personal website to learn more.

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., McGill University  (Buddhist Studies/Philosophy of Religion)
  • M.A., McGill University (Philosophy of Religion)
  • M.Phil., University of Cambridge (Social and Political Theory)
  • B.A., McGill University (Anthropology/Political Science)

Teaching Areas: 

  • Comparative humanities
  • Buddhist thought
  • Japanese philosophy and religion
  • Chinese philosophy and religion
  • Asian and comparative philosophy
  • Sexuality and gender

Selected Publications


Against Harmony: Progressive and Radical Buddhism in Modern Japan. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Forthcoming, 2017

The Oxford Handbook of Buddhist Ethics, co-edited with Daniel Cozort. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Forthcoming, 2017

Buddhist Responses to Globalization, co-edited with Leah Kalmanson. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2014

Radical and Revolutionary Buddhism(s) in Thought and Practice, co-edited with Patrice Ladwig. Politics, Religion & Ideology 15, no. 2 (2014)

Critical Buddhism: Engaging with Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought. Richmond, UK: Ashgate, 2011


“Buddhist Economics,” in The Oxford Handbook of Buddhist Ethics, edited by Daniel Cozort and James Mark Shields. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Forthcoming, 2017.

“Future Perfect: Tolstoy and the Structure of Taishō (Buddhist) Utopia.” In Violence, Nonviolence and Japanese Religions, edited by Michel Mohr. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press. Forthcoming, 2016.

“Immanent Frames: Meiji New Buddhism and the ‘Religious Secular’.” Japan Review: Journal of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies 27 (forthcoming, 2016).

“Opium Eaters: Buddhism as Revolutionary Politics.” In Buddhism and the Political Process, edited by Hiroko Kawanami. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

“Peasant Revolts as Anti-authoritarian Archetypes for Radical Buddhism in Modern Japan.” Journal of Religion in Japan 5, 1 (2016): 3–21.

“Buddhism” (The Conversion of Captain America: Buddhism and Postwar US Popular Culture). In The Routledge Companion to Religion and Popular Culture, edited by John C. Lyden and Eric M. Mazur, 401–418. London: Routledge, 2015.

“Zen and the Art of Treason: Radical Buddhism in Meiji Era (1868–1912) Japan.” Politics, Religion & Ideology 15, 2 (2014): 205–223.

“From Topos to Utopia: Critical Buddhism, Globalization, and Ideology Criticism.” In Buddhist Responses to Globalization, edited by Leah Kalmanson and James Mark Shields, 51–80. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2014.

“Seno’o Girō: Life and Thought of a Radical Buddhist.” In Buddhists: Understanding Buddhism through the Lives of Practitioners, edited by Todd Lewis, 280–288. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

“Political Interpretations of the Lotus Sutra.” In A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy, edited by Steven M. Emmanuel, 512–523. London: John Wiley & Sons, 2013.

“Zange and Sorge: Two Models of ‘Concern’ in Comparative Philosophy of Religion.” In Polyphonic Thinking and the Divine, edited by Jim Kanaris, 85–92. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2013.

“Liberation as Revolutionary Praxis: Rethinking Buddhism Materialism.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Special 20th Anniversary Edition (2013): 461–499.

“A Blueprint for Buddhist Revolution: The Radical Buddhism of Seno’o Girō (1889–1961) and the Youth League for Revitalizing Buddhism.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 39, 2 (2012): 333–351.

“‘Land of Kami, Land of the Dead’: Paligenesis and the Aesthetics of Religious Revisionism in Kobayashi Yoshinori’s Neo-Gōmanist Manifesto: On Yasukuni.” In Manga and the Representation of Japanese History, edited by Roman Rosenbaum, 189–216. London: Routledge, 2012.

“Awakening between Science, Art & Ethics: Variations on Japanese Buddhist Modernism, 1890–1945.” In Rethinking Japanese Modernism, edited by Roy Starrs, 105–24. Leiden: Global Oriental (Brill), 2012.


105 Coleman Hall