The exceptional academic achievements of Levi McLaughlin, assistant professor of religious studies, led to three significant honors in Spring 2018.
McLaughlin, who earned the Ph.D. at Princeton in 2009, teaches several courses in religious studies: Introduction to the Study of Religion, Religious Traditions of the World, Asian Religions, the Buddhist Traditions and Japanese Religions. In Fall 2016, he taught a graduate seminar on Religion, Disaster and Development for NC State’s liberal studies program.
A specialist in Japanese religions, McLaughlin is one of the world’s leading academic experts on Soka Gakkai, the largest active religion in Japan, with a claimed membership of 8.27 million households. Some of this work was recently featured in an article in Kyodo News Plus, a major source of in-depth news about Japan.
McLaughlin has published and edited many scholarly works on Soka Gakkai, religion and politics in Japan and religious responses to disaster in Asia. His monograph, Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution: The Rise of a Mimetic Nation in Modern Japan, will be published later this year by the University of Hawai`i Press.
In recognition of his outstanding scholarship, McLaughlin was awarded a Luce/ACLS Fellowship in Religion, Journalism and International Affairs for the 2018/19 academic year in early February. These fellowships are made possible by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, which seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious and art communities. They are administered by the American Council of Learned Societies, which has provided prestigious fellowships to support research by scholars in the humanities and related social sciences for almost 100 years.
McLaughlin’s Luce/ACLS fellowship will support a project on Religious Influences on Japanese Politics and Policymaking. The project will focus on two influential religious constituencies in Japan: members of Soka Gakkai, which underpins the political party Komeito, and politically active Shinto affiliates that maintain strong ties with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)—groups that operate as key vote mobilizers for the governing LDP-Komeito coalition and influence major political developments in Japan.
McLaughlin’s project will fill a crucial knowledge gap by supplying grassroots-level perspectives on religious practitioners who influence Japanese politics, generating data that will inform policymaking and contribute to comparative studies on interactions between religion and politics.
In late February, the NC State College of Humanities and Social Sciences selected McLaughlin for its Outstanding Junior Faculty Award in the Humanities in recognition of his outstanding scholarship, teaching and service. This award will be celebrated at the College’s welcome back and awards ceremony in September.
At the end of April, it came as no surprise that McLaughlin has been approved for promotion to associate professor in Fall 2018. His departmental colleagues are delighted and proud to welcome him to the tenured faculty.