Whale Gods and Sea Goddesses: Notes on Intra-Asian Comparison

16:00 to 17:00
Open Lecture

Lund University is happy to invite to this open lecture with Dr Aike P. Rots, Associate Professor in Japan Studies at Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo.


In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, Asian studies was characterised by increasing regional and subdisciplinary specialisation, the fragmentation of knowledge, and a general scepticism vis-à-vis research of a holistic or comparative nature. Today, the pendulum is swinging back. As the humanities and social sciences are under threat globally, there is a growing awareness that transnational, cross-disciplinary, and collaborative scholarship is essential for institutional survival. Accordingly, in recent years, some leading scholars of Asia have argued for the importance of more cross-border comparative research within the region, and put this into practice in their own work (Van der Veer 2016; Kendall 2021). In the ERC-funded project Whales of Power: Aquatic Mammals, Devotional Practices, and Environmental Change in Maritime East Asia, we follow their lead, studying ritual transformation and environmental action in different parts of Asia (and beyond) in a comparative manner. This presentation introduces the main themes and objectives of this project, with particular focus on the question of intra-Asian comparison. What does non-essentialist, transnational comparative research look like? Why does it matter? How can it challenge and complement existing knowledge? In the presentation, I will give several examples from my own research on popular religion in coastal regions of Vietnam and Japan—including whale rituals, goddess worship, heritage-making, and environmental anxiety—showing that a comparative approach can give rise to new questions and shed new light on local practices.

Read more here.

Lund University
Asia Library, Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Sölvegatan 18 B, Lund