Accepted Paper:

Politics of the sacred in the heritagization of Churches and Christian Sites in Japan   


Tinka Delakorda Kawashima (Yamaguchi Prefectural University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the strategies of various interested actors, such as local governments, tourism associations and religious groups in the process of choosing the component assets of the Christian heritage in Japan to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List.

Paper long abstract:

In 2007 a group of churches and other Christian sites in Nagasaki first appeared on UNESCO's Tentative List of World Heritage candidates. This nomination prompted efforts of regional administrations and tourism associations across Kyushu to have "their" Christian heritage inscribed/added into the list. This paper examines the "politics of the sacred" in the processes of choosing the component assets on the basis of fieldwork conducted in Hirado and Sotome areas in Nagasaki. Both areas contain many important assets that have been determined to be valuable on the regional and national levels. I focus on the assets of the so-called "hidden Christians". "Hidden Christians" have played a crucial role in the history of Christianity in Japan. During 250 years of severe persecution of Christians in Japan, they kept practicing Christianity in secret. However, when the Catholic Church has returned to Japan, many of the hidden Christians did not reunite with it, thus became viewed as "heretics" from the stance of the Catholic Church. In the paper I analyse their sacred sites and items that were included and excluded from the Tentative list, based on the top-down (governmental and Church) determination of the sacred worthy of a global recognition.

Panel Reli002
The heritagization of religious and spiritual practices: the effects of grassroots and top-down policies (SIEF Ethnology of Religion Working Group)