Tangled Networks: Tenrikyō Churches as Positional Multiplicities

March 31, 2022 - 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Timothy Smith
Timothy Smith

While Tenrikyō, one of the oldest of Japan's so-called "New Religions," teaches of an egalitarian future known as the "Joyous Life," the realities of maintaining a large international organization mean the creation and maintenance of networks and hierarchies. The primary form of these networks follow church lineages - branch churches answer to the church they spun off from, up the line to one of the Grand Churches which each maintain their own networks and answer directly to the central administration of the religion in Tenri City, Nara.

However, I have found that these church networks are far messier than that, and are complicated by a variety of aspects, including generational differences within and between churches, physical and organizational distance, and distance from the original followers of Nakayama Miki, the Foundress of Tenrikyō.

In this talk, I will discuss how the positionality of churches within Tenrikyō has shaped my research, and how alternative networks are forming within the religion in response to the obstacles traditional church networks present.

About the speaker:
Tim Smith is a Ph.D Candidate in the department of Religious Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. His dissertation, entitled "Clean Minds, Messy Realities: Shifting Trends in Contemporary Tenrikyō," explores issues of generational change, inter- and intra-religious networks, and the conflicting tensions between change and tradition, through the lens of one specific church and its position within Tenrikyō as a whole.

Contact name



  • Asian/Pacific Studies Institute