Religions (Mar 2022)

Critical Visual Religion Approach: When Ethnographic Filmmaking Blends with the Critical Approach to Religion, a Japanese Case Study

  • Ilaria Vecchi

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 13, no. 3
p. 255


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This article draws on the research and practice developed during my doctorate and fieldwork in Japan. In this work, I consider the implication of using the critical religion approach and the visual ethnographic methodology for critically investigating what is commonly labelled as religion and its representation as observed in Japan with particular reference to my fieldwork in Tohoku. I begin by reviewing the concept of religion in Japan, in particular the character of the idea and the use of the critical religion approach. I continue with an analysis of ethnographic filmmaking, focusing on cases that inspired my visual ethnographic filmic approach. I discuss how the two methods informed each other, creating a visual ethnographic technique founded on the critical religion approach as well as sensory, participatory and creative ethnographic filmmaking methods I developed and applied to my documentary, Tohoku Monogatari—A Story from the Northeast of Japan. With this article, I contend the necessity of a critical approach to the representation of religions which could be achieved with what I named the critical visual religion approach.