Melissa Anne-Marie Curley

Professor Melissa Anne-Marie Curley
Assistant Professor, Japanese Religions
PhD, McGill University, 2009
308 Gilh
Office Hours: 
Mon 10:30-1; Wed 2:30-4 and by appointment (Spring 2015)
Curriculum Vitae: 
Research Interests: 
Japanese Religions, Pure Land Buddhism

Dr. Curley joined the University of Iowa faculty in 2009.

Her research interests revolve around three interlocking themes: religion and the state, religion and the body, and religion and exile. She thinks the interweavings of these themes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Japan are incredibly interesting, both in their own right and in terms of the ways they illuminate the impact of modernity on religious life.

Dr. Curley's current research centers on Buddhist responses to modernity in Japan, with a special focus on Pure Land thought and the uses of the utopian Pure Land imaginary by modern thinkers working in the aftermath of the Pacific War. She is interested in the emergence of utopian thought under conditions of historical crisis or rupture, and in the political and ethical significance of Buddhist heresy in the modern period. The project she is working on now, based on her doctoral dissertation, examines the ways in which Japanese philosophers associated with the Kyoto School interpret the image of the Pure Land in relation to the space of modern nation-state.

Her next projects will explore the uses of the human body in modern and contemporary memorial objects (starting with the hair rope enshrined in Kyoto’s Higashi Honganji), and the history of Buddhist prison chaplaincy in Japan.

Selected Publications: 

(For complete list, please see Dr. Curley's CV):

Awards & Service: 
  • Dean’s Fellowship, Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University, 2008–2009
  • McGill Internal SSHRC Research Fellowship, 2007
  • AAR (Eastern International Region) Graduate Student Essay Award, 2007
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship, 2005–2007
  • J.W. McConnell Foundation, McGill Major Fellowship, 2004–2005
  • Dean’s Fellowship, Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University, 2002–2003

Dr. Curley regularly teach courses in Japanese religions, and courses surveying topics in Asian religions. Her teaching interests include religion and sexuality, religion and the arts, and Asian religions in diaspora. Courses she has taught at the University of Iowa include:

  • 032:004 (039:064) Living Religions of the East
  • 032:017 Japanese Religions
  • 032:116 (039J:109) Japanese Religion & Thought
  • 032:131 (131:131) Gender and Sexuality in East Asia
  • 032:205 Methods and Theories in the Study of Religion