Based upon a survey of five faith-based volunteer groups,
Promising Practices offers valuable insights and fresh perspectives into the ways women’s participation in religious civic organizations may work as a gateway toward participatory democracy. By approaching women’s faith-based volunteering as a social practice, the book engages with three of the most important dimensions of civil society: gender, religion, and democracy. Cavaliere teases out the complexity of interactions among these three dimensions of civic life through stories of individual women who volunteer for three different religious organizations. The volume examines how faith-based volunteering is experienced by women in contemporary Japan and how it becomes a site of empowering and disempowering practices through which women balance the benefits and the costs of personal shifts, socio-economic changes and democratic transformation.
Paola Cavaliere, Ph.D. (2012), The University of Sheffield, UK - Tohoku University, Japan, is an independent scholar investigating the role of women in contemporary Japanese religious civil society. She has published several articles on a gendered approach to Japanese faith-based volunteering.
'What we have here, then, is a fascinating extension of the accepted understanding of Japanese religions into the arena of volunteer activities. Rather than essentializing the religiosity of her interlocutors, the author shows us quite clearly that “religion,” in the Western understanding of the word, has little to do with their motivations. Rather than looking at how religion provides identity to these women, the author rightly shifts the question to what these women do with religion. Further, we see these women constructing and shifting their identities not only with religion, but with a host of other activities and strategies. Religion here is part of the story, but it is not the center of the story. Herein lies Cavaliere’s most welcome contribution to the field. Her exploration of the relationship between caring/altruism and religious identity provides some helpful hints for how one might approach religiosity in other arenas.'
Mark Rowe, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada,
Journal of Religion in Japan (2015) 4: 2-3
The book will be of valuable contribution for those focusing on gender studies in Japan and for those working in the growing interdisciplinary field of religious civil society.