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About Dr Paulina Kolata

I have obtained my PhD in Japanese Studies from the University of Manchester in 2019. My academic grounding is in Japanese Studies, Religious Studies and Social Anthropology with a strong orientation towards ethnographic research methods. My research stands at the nexus of several primary interests: religions in contemporary Japan, Japanese Buddhist institutions and communities, religious change and activism relating to depopulation and mobility, regional studies, materiality and environmental impact of religious practice, as well as religion and economy.

In my doctoral work, I focused on Buddhist temple communities in depopulating regions in contemporary Japan. During the 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork I lived at a family-run Jōdo Shinshū Buddhist temple in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. Based on that research, my PhD thesis is an ethnographic inquiry into how Buddhist narratives and practices of interdependence shape the community and identity-building processes in depopulating regions. The project examines the currents of change influencing notions of belonging and socioeconomic existence within the temple and its broader communal, regional and organisational frameworks. I am currently working on a book manuscript based on my doctoral thesis tentatively titled Japanese Buddhist Temple Communities in transition: doing belonging in troubled times, which will be submitted to the University of Hawai’i Press for their Contemporary Buddhist series in June 2021.

My current and future research projects continue to investigate contemporary Buddhist communities in Japan and beyond through lenses of mobility, activism, environment, consumption, economy, class, gender and visual research methods. My next long-term research project involves a visual ethnographic project and a second book on the importance of “Buddhist waste” for understanding the environmental implications of Buddhist belonging and practice in contemporary Japan.


My research serves an important role in my teaching practice and I am very committed to developing research-led teaching. I have developed my experience in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching as a Visiting Lecturer at University of Chester and Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Manchester, where I have been teaching on Japanese/Asian religions/Buddhism, anthropology of religion, qualitative research methods, modernity, mobility and social change, as well as Asian philosophy, including working closely with ethnographic film, visual, material and textual primary sources in original languages and in translation.

In Chester, I am teaching the study of religions, lived religions including qualitative research methods, anthropology of religion, and issues in field work study.


TH4061 Studying Religions: Issues, Questions and Concepts

TH4062 Lived Religions: People, Lances, Things

TH5045 Anthropology of Religion

TH5065 Field Study of Religion

TH6051 Dissertation


Research Interests:

  • anthropology and ethnography of Buddhism
  • Japanese religions
  • memory and religious materiality
  • religious change (depopulation and mobility)
  • Buddhism and economy
  • Buddhism and environment
  • religion and tourism
  • ethnography and qualitative research methods
  • visual anthropology and ethnographic filmI am currently involved as an Early Career Research Fellow in the ‘Religion and Minority: lived religion, migration and marginalities in secular societies’ research project supported by the UKRI ESRC-AHRC UK-Japan SSH Connections Grant Scheme (PI: Dr Erica Baffelli) and based at the University of Manchester in the UK and at Toyo University in Japan, through which I have been developing a community-based case study that investigates the socioeconomic processes of constructing minority Buddhist identities in a global and local trans-religious context of the UK and Japan. I am also currently working on an article based on this project that will be part of a peer-reviewed special issue for the journal Religion, State and Society (edited by Erica Baffelli and Takahashi Norihito) planned for 2021.

Published Work

Book Chapters

“The Story Beyond UNESCO: Local Buddhist Temples and the Heritage of Survival in Regional Japan.” In Sacred Heritage in Japan, ed. Aike P. Rots and Mark Teeuwen, Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge, 2020, pp. 159-181.


Accepted: “Buddhist Temples of the Future: Managing Survival,” In Erica, Baffelli, Andrea Castiglioni, and Fabio Rambelli, eds., Handbook of Japanese Religions, Bloomsbury.


Journal Articles

Submitted and under review: “The cost of dying alone: nōkotsudō, memory and the afterlife of human remains in contemporary Japan.” An 8,000-word article under review with Asian Ethnology.


Book Reviews

Book Review of The Norton Anthology of World Religions: Buddhism. 2015. Donald S. Lopez, Jr. (ed.). Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions, 18, pp. 46-47.


Other Publications

“’Religion and Minority’ Project - Tokyo Fieldwork Report” A co-authored report with Aura Di Febo from the University of Manchester for the ‘Religion and Minority: lived religion, migration and marginalities in secular societies’ project (3 February 2020).


“'Religion and Minority' Research Project - Kickoff meeting and pilot visits.” A co-authored report with Aura Di Febo from the University of Manchester for the ‘Religion and Minority: lived religion, migration and marginalities in secular societies’ project (1 April 2019).


In preparation

(Book manuscript) Japanese Buddhist Temple Communities in transition: doing belonging in troubled times. (provisional title) Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. A completed manuscript is due for review by the end of May 2021.


BA (Hons) (Manchester), MA (Lancaster), PhD (Manchester), FHEA